In 2020, voters in New Mexico will decide a constitutional amendment to change the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from an elected five-member commission to an appointed three-member commission.
The PRC is responsible for the regulation of public utilities, transportation companies, transmission and pipeline companies, insurance companies, and other public companies. As of 2019, the PRC’s five members include four Democrats and one Republican.
Rather than having voters elect the PRC’s members, the constitutional amendment would create a nominating committee which would develop a list of candidates, and the governor would appoint three members from the list, with the consent of the state Senate, to serve on the commission. The PRC would change from an elected commission to an appointed commission on January 1, 2023.
PRC commissioners Cynthia Hall (D) and Steve Fischmann (D) wrote an article supporting the constitutional amendment, which said, “The public and the utility companies that serve them deserve to have commissioners with meaningful expertise when they begin working on the commission. That means graduate-level education plus significant industry or regulatory experience. Commissioners should be experts at the outset, not rookies.” Theresa Becenti-Aguilar (D) and Jeff Byrd (R) wrote an article opposing the amendment, which said that the measure would “make our state’s most powerful regulatory agency less representative, less responsive to the public and more susceptible to the influence of powerful special interests.”
The constitutional amendment was approved 59-8 in the House and 36-5 in the Senate. It’s the first constitutional amendment referred to the 2020 ballot in New Mexico. Between 1995 and 2018, voters approved 85.5 percent of the constitutional amendments on the ballot in the state.