Inside the Capitol

Friday, October 07, 2011

10-10 update

101011 PRC apps

SANTA FE – We were surprised last week to see 17 applicants for the Public Regulation Commission seat vacated by Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. Those applications were submitted on only two days' notice. And the notice wasn't particularly widely distributed. Those 17 had to be waiting to pounce.
Newspaper coverage of the 17 applicants mentioned that applications would be accepted for another three working days and that additional applications were expected.
But 70 more applications? That's a little mind blowing. Is it a commentary on our lousy job market? Or does it say something about a job that pays $90,000 a year with good benefits and no qualifications?
And it is low profile. Commissioners don't get much news coverage. Few voters know the PRC candidates so a person who already has political connections is at an advantage. And once on the commission, you get to hire your own staff.
Nearly all 87 applicants have held either an elective office, worked for a major political office holder, held a political party office or worked in a high ranking state government position. It may not be far off to say every unemployed politico in northern New Mexico is trying to get the job.
Gov. Susana Martinez has not given a date by which she will make the appointment. After all, she has 87 resumes to comb through although it seems highly likely she will be able to eliminate many very quickly.
It doesn't seem logical for a Democrat to even bother applying. Appointments such as this almost always go to a member of the governor's party. The four current members include two Democrats and two Republicans. So why would Martinez, a Republican, appoint a Democrat?
It should be noted, however, that the two republicans are former legislators and savvy politicians. Patrick Lyons, the commission chairman, was elected at the beginning of his first term despite being in the Republican minority.
Ben Hall, the other Republican and also new to the commission, could have been elected vice chairman to replace Block but he and Lyons agreed with Democrat Jason Marks that electing the other Democratic commissioner as vice chairman would be a good show of unity in the face of the turmoil the PRC currently is facing.
It seems very likely that Lyons and Hall told Block at the beginning of the year that if he voted for Lyons to be chairman of the commission, they would vote for him to be vice chairman.
We have talked recently about how Gov. Martinez's appointment of a replacement for Block may affect how people will feel about an appointive PRC, something I have been advocating.
My feelings have been influenced by watching the old appointive Public Regulation Commission, which functioned smoothly and professionally while the elective Corporation Commission had the same problems the PRC has had since its inception.
Since proposing an appointive commission composed of experts in the fields covered by the PRC, concerns have been expressed that these experts are likely to have vested interests because of having worked for industries they regulate.
An especial concern has been expressed about a regulation commission appointed by Martinez, a firm supporter of deregulation. It is a legitimate concern. The possibility of conflicts of interest is substantial. As we have said before, Gov. Martinez's selection to fill Block's position could influence whether she or any future governor might be allowed to appoint an entire commission.
The PRC was created 15 years ago for the same reasons further reform is being considered news. The latest good government features were added in, such as public financing and no contributions from lobbyists for industries regulated by the commission. Voters approved a constitutional amendment to make it happen. But it wasn't enough.
Eliminate paragraph toward the end re Block not resigning yet. This attachment correct.


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