Those of you who read this blog with some regularity know that I seldom talk politics – not because I have no opinion (yeah. . .I can hear those of you who know me well laughing out loud at that statement) but because I don’t think this is the forum for trying to sway your political leanings. But listen, friends, when a political issue will benefit everyone in New Mexico and when the support for that issue is bipartisan (and incredibly sensible), I’m going to let you know about it.
I wrote previously about Think New Mexico when they worked so diligently to get Governor Richardson to veto the reimposition of the food tax. Because Think New Mexico’s Executive Director Fred Nathan is my pal, I was especially proud of their work. Now Think New Mexico has another worthy fight on their hands, and I’m writing to ask you to go to their website’s Action Center asap and let your legislators and the Gov know how you feel about this issue.
And yes, we’re talking about the Public Regulation Commission. Here’s a bit of background (borrowed from Fred Nathan’s statement about this issue):
“It is likely that no local, state or federal government agency directly affects more New Mexicans on a daily basis than the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC).
In fact, the PRC is the most powerful state regulatory body in the nation, with appendages reaching into the regulation of utilities, including electricity, natural gas, water and wastewater; telecommunications; insurance, including health, property, title, and auto; motor carriers, including tow trucks, taxis, moving vans, buses, shuttles, ambulances, and railroads; oil, natural gas, and hazardous liquid pipelines; corporations; and even the State Fire Marshal’s office and ski lift inspections.
Meanwhile, qualifications for the five elected PRC Commissioners could not be much lower. PRC Commissioners must be 1) at least 18 years of age; 2) a resident of the state for at least one year; and 3) not a convicted felon. (That last requirement recently forced out PRC Commissioners Carol Sloan and Jerome Block Jr.)”
Kinda mind-boggling, isn’t it? No qualifications for a job that affects every single one of us in some way in this state. But wait – there’s more.
Fred again: “There are no educational requirements – not even a high school diploma – or any professional requirements, even though commissioners are required to regularly make very complex and technical decisions affecting hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans and tens of millions of dollars.
Think New Mexico released a report in October entitled, “Rethinking the PRC,” in which we suggested that it is time to reconsider this arrangement that combines so much power with so few qualifications. Indeed, the history of the PRC from its inception in 1996 has too often been a parade of corruption, scandal and dysfunction.
Fortunately, three current PRC Commissioners, Chairman Patrick Lyons, Commissioner Jason Marks, and Commissioner Doug Howe have joined with Think New Mexico to advocate for the passage of a package of three constitutional amendments as an essential first step toward turning around the PRC.
Lyons is a Republican, Marks is a Democrat, and Howe is an Independent. This tri-partisan cooperation reflects the fact that this package is about enacting common sense reforms, not politics.
The first constitutional amendment, proposed by House Joint Resolution (HJR) 16, would remove the PRC’s authority over the reporting and registration of corporations, which has been plagued with problems, and consolidate it in a one-stop shop for business registrations and filings at the Secretary of State’s office. Currently, the Secretary of State handles the reporting and registration of some types of businesses, like limited liability partnerships, while the PRC does the same for others, like limited liability companies. This division of labor is counterproductive, especially in this economic environment.
The second constitutional amendment, proposed by HJR 17, would remove the PRC’s authority over insurance, and would reform how Superintendents of Insurance are selected. Every Superintendent under the PRC has either been fired or resigned because of the inherent conflicts that arise from working for five bosses with competing agendas. This amendment would allow the Superintendent to be selected by the Executive, from a list of qualified candidates produced by a non-partisan nominating committee, and confirmed by the Senate.
The third constitutional amendment, proposed by HJR 11, would increase the qualifications for PRC commissioners. Some will argue that commissioners should be appointed rather than elected, but what matters most is that they must be qualified to do their jobs.”
It’s a no-brainer folks! Let’s make sure the people who are in charge of our lives are actually qualified. Below is the info on how to get involved and let our elected officials do the right thing.
All three bills have passed the House unanimously. Right now, it’s my understanding that Think New Mexico was able to get all three bills passed by the House late last week on unanimous votes (70-0 for HJR 11; 67-0 for HJR 16; and 68-0 for HJR 17). So the whole package of legislation is now in the Senate, and its first stop is the Senate Rules Committee.
Let’s actually, all of us, do the right thing and insist that our Senators get this bill passed during this legislative session (which, by the way, ends a week from Thursday). . .please visit the Action Center on Think New Mexico’s website, www.thinknewmexico.org , and let your elected officials know that fundamentally reforming the PRC will benefit every New Mexican.