New Mexico think tank on regulator reform: ‘Citizens want this change’
Talk about fortuitous timing. When Fred Nathan and his colleagues at Think New Mexico decided six months ago to put together a report outlining the need for an overhaul of the state’s Public Regulatory Commission (PRC), they couldn’t have picked a riper release date: Last Friday, two days after embattled PRC member Jerome Block Jr. finally pled guilty to multiple felonies and agreed to resign his post and never again run for public office, Think issued “Rethinking the PRC.”
Outlining the many problems, inconsistencies and scandals that have plagued the PRC since its inception in 1996, the report calls for a complete revamping if not outright gutting of the commission, and at the least it asks that its elected officials be required to have more education or more experience related to the job.
“We’d actually been thinking about this topic for the past five years,” said Nathan. “You don’t need to be a genius to see that the PRC is not professional. The timing of it was just dumb luck on our part. We had no idea that this would happen.”
But happen it did, and what’s different about it so far—and much of it due to timing—is the response it has generated.
“You can pick any dysfunctional state agency and generally the people working at that agency aren’t ever willing to concede to the changes being recommended,” added Nathan. “That’s not the case here. Both commission chairman Pat Lyons and member Jason Marks agreed with our recommendations. So here you have elected officials saying less really is more. That’s very different. And reactions like theirs makes it makes it a somewhat easier sell. We’re not getting the usual pushback from the agency.”
The pushback may come later during the next legislative session. “The challenge now,” admitted Nathan, “is to get the 112 legislators and the governor to agree.”
Given the usual obstreperousness of that particular body and the lagtime between the Block scandal of recent days and whatever news is news next January, when the legislature reconvenes, that’s no small obstacle.
“In small political circles, yes, Block’s behavior is tolerated,” conceded Nathan. “And there’s an overabundance of good ol’ boy stuff, so this will be definitely be a test for the political system. But that’s not a fair assessment of where most citizens stand on this. They want this change. The fairer criticism is that those of us in the electorate need something like this to wake us up.”