Voters approve PRC revamp, approve bonds

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By Susan Montoya Bryan
The Associated Press

One of New Mexico’s most powerful, highest paid and scandal-plagued commissions will have a little less power now that voters have approved a set of constitutional amendments aimed at reforming the Public Regulation Commission.

An amendment allowing the state Legislature to set minimum qualifications for PRC candidates was approved by an overwhelming majority late Tuesday.

The other two proposals were decided Wednesday by narrower margins. Under those measures, an independent superintendent position will be created to take on the PRC’s duties of regulating insurance companies, and the commission’s duties of chartering corporations will be transferred to the secretary of state’s office.

Supporters contend the changes will make the commission more efficient and ensure that elected regulators are better prepared for the complex utility and telecommunications issues they must decide.

The five-member panel regulates utilities, insurance companies, transportation companies, and transmission and pipeline companies.

Fred Nathan, executive director of the Santa Fe-based think tank Think New Mexico, which advocated for the amendments, said late Tuesday that the outcome reflected a strong public desire for reform.

Voters on Tuesday also approved more than $140 million in bonds to support libraries, higher education and senior centers. Highlands University will get $6 million while Luna Community College will get $4 million.

Voters also approved two other constitutional amendments — one that will increase the membership of the Judicial Standards Commission, which investigates alleged misconduct by judges, and another that will establish the Public Defenders Department as an independent state agency.