SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal that calls for reshaping the administrative structure of a powerful regulatory panel that oversees New Mexico utilities and other businesses is headed to the House floor for consideration.
The measure has the support of business groups and key Democratic legislative leaders who say revamping the Public Regulation Commission will help insulate the staff from political considerations and reduce turnover.
The move to reorganize the commission comes as the state begins to implement a 2019 landmark energy law that involves the closure of a major coal-fired power plant and the economic pains that will come along with that as well as new renewable energy mandates that call for investor-owned utilities to be carbon-free by 2045.
Under the proposal, administration of the panel would be moved under the state Regulation and Licensing Department and commissioners would select their chief of staff from a list of qualified candidates provided by the governor.
Democratic Reps. Linda Trujillo of Santa Fe and Nathan Small of Las Cruces are sponsoring the bill. They say it's time to modernize the commission.
“If we don’t make these targeted changes to protect employees, value their contributions, and provide the technical expertise the PRC deserves, we will be navigating a difficult road map for economic development and a clean energy future," Small said.
Some consumer advocacy groups have argued that the independently elected commission has a constitutional responsibility to weigh the interests of utility investors and customers when making decisions about rate increases or what types of resources make up a utility's portfolio.
While the legislation states the restructured commission shall act in the public interest of the state, the attorney general's office has suggested that interest be clearly defined.
If approved by the House, the measure would need to be considered by the Senate before the 30-day legislative session ends Feb. 20.
Other changes could also be in store for the five-member commission as voters are set to weigh in on a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would turn the PRC into an appointed body. New Mexico is one of fewer than a dozen states with an elected regulatory panel like the PRC.
If approved by voters, the constitutional changes would go into effect in 2023.