Bipartisan bill may start discussion on remaking agency
Voters in November overwhelming approved a constitutional amendment requiring increased qualifications to serve as a state public regulation commissioner.
Now it is up to the Legislature to approve an enabling law that spells out the details.
Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, right, and Sen. Timothy Keller, D-Albuquerque, have teamed to provide one of the possibilities, and they have set a high bar.
The bill by Bandy and Keller would require "a baccalaureate or more advanced degree from an institution of higher learning that is accredited by a regional or national accrediting body and that requires face-to-face contact between its students and instructors prior to completion of the academic program."
In addition, their measure would require at least seven years' work experience in one of these fields: engineering; law; finance, economics and statistics; or consumer protection and advocacy.
Another possibility under the bill is seven years' experience in an area regulated by the PRC. This could include utilities or telecommunications.
Under the old system, a regulatory commissioner only needed to be 18 years old and be free of felony convictions.
Ben Hall, one of the five sitting public regulation commissioners, opposed the constitutional amendment. Hall, R-Ruidoso, said the PRC would have qualifications more stringent than those for president, governor or to serve in the state Legislature.
But Think New Mexico, the organization that fought for the amendment, likened regulatory commissioners to district or appeals court judges. These judges need a law degree to serve, and regulatory commissioners should be held to a similar standard, said Fred Nathan, executive director of Think New Mexico.
The proposal by Keller and Bandy is Senate Bill 8.