PRC Commissioner Theresa Becenti-Aguilar says she opposes any move to increase qualificiations because that could mean fewer minorities are able to serve.
While one proposal to reform the Public Regulation Commission passed the Senate on Saturday, three others are still in the pipeline, which appears to be clogged.
And one PRC commissioner was at the capitol today to voice her opposition to two of the proposals.
Rep. Brian Egolf’s bill (HB 300), which is aimed at preventing a revolving door at the PRC by banning some employees from taking positions with regulated industries for two years after leaving their state jobs, passed the House on Sunday 67-0. With three days left in the session, it now heads to the Senate.
Although one proposal has moved through the Senate Rules Committee, two other reform measures (HJR 11 and HJR 17) are still waiting to be heard. Proponents of reforms, including current and former PRC staffers, lawmakers and members of the business community, were present in the committee and ready to support the measures Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The committee often stops meeting this late in the session. Committee Chair Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, did not return a call on Monday. But supporters of the measures remain positive.
“We’re still hopeful that we can keep the whole package together and pass it before Thursday (when the session ends),” said the proposals’ biggest proponent, Fred Nathan of Think New Mexico.
Concerns about minority representation, constituent services
Although Commissioners Jason Marks, Pat Lyons and Doug Howe have all said they support the package of reforms proposed by Think NM, Commissioners Theresa Becenti-Aguilar and Ben Hall expressed opposition back in October.
Becenti-Aguilar told NMPolitics.net she was at the Roundhouse today to share her thoughts on the measures, which would set some qualifications for the job of PRC commissioner and reduce the commission’s broad scope by moving the Corporations Divison to the Secretary of State’s office and making the Insurance Division its own agency.
The commissioner, who is Navajo, said she opposes any move to increase qualificiations because that could mean fewer minorities are able to serve.
That concern has not been shared by Native American lawmakers who voted for the proposals in the House, or by other advocates for Native groups. Conroy Chino, who represents the All Indian Pueblo Council, said he was aware of Becenti-Aguilar’s concerns but his clients don’t have a problem with the proposal.
Currently a PRC commissioner is only required to be 18 years old, a resident of the state and not a convicted felon.
Becenti-Aguilar, who attended NMSU and UNM-Los Alamos but did not earn a degree, said her work as an aide to Tom Udall (when he was attorney general and then in Congress) demonstrated a long history of government experience.
She also said she had shared her opposition to the PRC reform bills with Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, who has expressed similar concerns to NMPolitics.net and other media outlets.
Sanchez “has been trying to get a sense of where the commissioners stand, and what I shared with him is that there are three in support and two who oppose,” she said.
Moving the incorporation functions from the PRC to the Secretary of State’s Office would hamper commissioners’ ability to help their constituents file, said Becenti-Aguilar, who represents the northwestern quadrant of the state, including the Navajo Nation.
When constituents such as the All-Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association need to file paperwork with the division, they e-mail Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar, she prints out their messages, walks them down the hall and asks the division to process them immediately, she said.
The commissioner said while she has some concerns about moving the insurance division as the state moves to implement federal health-care reform (concerns shared by one advocacy group), she’s less worried about that element because commissioners have less jurisdiction over the division.