PRC overhaul would create three-member commission appointed by governor

Dan McKay
Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, right, is co-sponsoring a bill that would create a three-member PRC with members appointed by the governor.

SANTA FE - A proposed constitutional amendment that would shake up the Public Regulation Commission is headed to the Senate floor.

The bipartisan legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 1, would create a three-member PRC with members appointed by the governor.

The candidates would be vetted by an independent nominating committee before going to the governor — similar to the system already in place for judges.

"We are really trying to take the politics out of these slots," Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said Monday.

He is co-sponsoring the bill with Senate Minority Whip William Payne, R-Albuquerque, and Sen. Steven Neville, R-Aztec.

New Mexico's Public Regulation Commission is now an elected five-member body, with regulatory oversight of utilities.

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The proposed constitutional amendment cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on an 8-2 vote Monday. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

It would also have to be approved by the House and by the voters in a statewide election to take effect.

Opponents of the bill questioned whether a gubernatorial appointment process would succeed in making the PRC less political.

Wirth said that if the amendment passes, the Legislature would establish a rule outlining more clearly how the appointment process would work. The goal would be to require professional qualifications aimed at ensuring good candidates are forwarded to the governor for appointment.

Members would serve six-year terms and could be removed only in certain circumstances, such as malfeasance.

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State lawmakers are sending to the governor a proposal that would ensure New Mexico continues to receive tax revenue from companies that operate national laboratories in the state.

The legislation, Senate Bill 11, passed the House on Sunday with an amendment, and the Senate agreed to the change Monday, sending it to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The bill allows New Mexico to continue to impose taxes on operators of national laboratories — such as Los Alamos and Sandia — even if they have nonprofit status.

Analysts for the Legislature said New Mexico stood to lose about $25 million to $30 million a year if the prime contractor of Los Alamos National Laboratory had tax-exempt status.

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