New Mexico Voters approved Constitutional Amendment #1 on Tuesday in a vote of 56% to 44% with nearly 800,000 votes cast. Constitutional amendment #1 would reduce the number of commissioners on the state’s Public Regulation Commission from five to three and would make those positions appointed by the governor rather than elected by voters. NMBC has long been a supporter of this adjustment to the PRC’s membership and is delighted to see that voters agree. An appointed PRC will function more efficiently and bring better results for the state when compared to the current system and it’s poor track record. In fact, New Mexico is the only state that elects commissioners by district, often causing commissioners to be swayed by constituents and the desire for reelection rather than perform their constitutionally defined duties to balance the interests of ratepayers, shareholders and the public as a whole.
Many voters have raised concerns about this amendment further expanding the Governor’s unchecked power and rightly so. However, the newly approved process for PRC appointment gives the state an opportunity to correct at least some of the issues with the PRC will not result in the Governor appointing cronies to the commission. The appointment process provides for a nonpartisan commission to select candidates based on established qualifications – similar to how judges are currently selected. The Governor will only be able to appoint from this qualified list, and to further ensure fairness and transparency, appointees must be confirmed by the state senate with no more than two of three appointees being a member of the Governor’s party.
The PRC has struggled to keep qualified individuals on staff, and has been plagued with multiple scandals and poor decisions since its creation in 1996, which was achieved through a constitutional amendment. This most recent amendment gives New Mexico a chance to correct our previous misstep and get back to having a functional and highly qualified PRC that can deliver results for the state. For more information click HERE.