It moves to Senate, where a a different bill also is in play
The state House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would require at least 12 years of higher education, professional experience or a combination of the two to serve on the Public Regulation Commission.
Debate lasted only about 10 minutes before the measure carried 55-0. It now goes to the state Senate, where a competing bill also is in play.
Rep. Tom Taylor, right, R-Farmington, sponsored the House bill that he called “the rule of 12” to run for and serve in the highly technical job of public regulation commissioner.
Under his bill, someone with a four-year degree in engineering and at least eight years as a professional in that field would qualify. But Taylor said different routes to meeting the qualification standard were abundant.
For instance, Steve Jobs dropped out of college but he could be a public regulation commissioner if he lived in New Mexico, Taylor said. Jobs started Apple Computers in 1976, giving him decades of experience in computer technology, telecommunications and management.
Relevant college degrees or experience to serve on the PRC would include law, engineering, energy, economics, telecommunications and government administration.
Taylor’s bill says a candidate running for the PRC would submit documentation of his credentials to the secretary of state. But the secretary of state would not investigate the accuracy of the documents.
A voter would have to file a lawsuit in state district court to challenge a PRC candidate’s credentials.
Taylor carried the bill in concert with the policy organization Think New Mexico, which in 2011 called for higher standards to serve on the PRC.
Commissioners are elected to do highly technical work involving utilities and telecommunications. Yet they have not had to meet any standard except being at least 18 years old and free of felony convictions.
Voters last fall, by a record margin of 542,000 votes, authorized the Legislature to increase qualifications for the five PRC seats.
Fred Nathan, right, executive director of Think New Mexico, said the commissioners have jobs as difficult and demanding as those of state appeals court judges, so requiring higher qualifications was overdue.
A different PRC bill by Sen. Timothy Keller, D-Albuquerque, has advanced to the Senate floor. It would allow people to run for the PRC if they met any of three standards, he said.
One is at least three years’ experience leading a government department in sectors relevant to the PRC. A second is at least five years’ relevant management experience. The third is licensure in professions related to sectors regulated by the PRC.
Keller, who has an MBA from Harvard, has said he did not want a bill so prescriptive that it would stop most New Mexicans from running for the PRC.
Each of the five PRC districts has more than 400,000 residents. Taylor said voters would have ample talent to choose from in all of them.
Public regulation commissioners each make $90,000 a year.
Under Taylor’s bill, as many as three of the five sitting commissioners would not qualify for the office they hold. But, Taylor said, those on the PRC would not be subject to the new qualifications during their current term.
If Taylor’s bill clears the Senate and is signed by the governor, new qualifications would apply to anyone appointed by the governor to fill a PRC vacancy after July 1, 2013, or to commissioners elected in November 2014 and thereafter.