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Report: N.M. regulation commission’s problems stem from too much power, inexperienced members

In the wake of Public Regulation Commission member Jerome Block Jr.’s resignation, a new report says that the problems afflicting the state regulator go deeper than any one individual.

The report, from Think New Mexico, calls for streamlining and reducing the duties of the PRC, and increasing the qualifications required of its members. KRQE reports:

Just last week, PRC Commissioner Jerome Block Junior pleaded guilty to multiple felonies including check fraud and embezzlement. Fred Nathan, the founder of Think New Mexico, says the scandal is simply a symptom of the PRC’s larger problem… ”As long as the PRC is so powerful and has so few qualifications for office, we believe it’s going to continue to be a magnet for corrupt politicians like Jerome Block Jr.,” Nathan said.

The report claims that no other state regulator in the country has powers as broad as New Mexico’s does. The Commission regulates utility rates, insurance, fire safety, ambulances, corporation registration and even the rates that in-state motor carriers, including taxis and moving companies, can charge to their customers.

The report calls for shifting some of the PRC’s functions to other agencies, including supervision of the State Fire Marshall’s office, ambulance regulation and registration of corporations. It also calls for eliminating rate regulation of motor carriers. Critics of motor carrier rate regulation argue that it is a separate issue from safety or public health regulation and an unnecessary power of the New Mexico state government.

Think New Mexico is also proposing that commissioners have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or five years of experience in a relevant field, such as engineering, law or accounting. The report finds that at least 15 states have similar minimum qualifications for their top state regulators.

Reforming the PRC’s structure and purpose would require changes to the state constitution, which means that the Legislature has to pass a proposal and the voters have to adopt it via referendum. Efforts to modify the PRC in recent years have repeatedly stalled in the Legislature.

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