Toward the bottom of your ballot you will find Constitutional Amendment 1.
There are at least three good reasons to vote on it: The problem it seeks to fix has already been addressed, the amendment is being presented in a misleading manner and a mysterious political action committee (PAC) is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote the amendment without disclosing the source of that dark money.
Recently, a PAC called the “Committee to Protect New Mexico Consumers” has sent out four slick and misleading mailers in support of Constitutional Amendment 1 at a cost of more than $264,000. The PAC was cited by the state Ethics Commission for failing to file required disclosures, and still adamantly refuses to disclose where all that money is coming from.
If this constitutional amendment is really so good for consumers, why are the people who are bankrolling it hiding their identities from the public? (In a recent Albuquerque Journal article, one of the PAC’s board members promised to reveal the donors…. after the election.)
Second, I join PRC Commissioner Steve Fischmann in objecting to the way Constitutional Amendment 1 appears on your ballot. The description of the amendment never indicates that the PRC is being converted from an elected commission to an appointed one; it fails to inform the public that if they vote in favor, they will give up their power to elect and hold accountable future PRC commissioners.
In 2011 Think New Mexico published a policy report recommending several reforms to the PRC. Based on the research in that report, Think New Mexico successfully advocated for the enactment of three constitutional amendments approved by the voters in 2012.
One amendment empowered the legislature to increase the qualifications of PRC commissioners. Prior to that reform, the only qualifications were that they had to be at least 18 years old, lived in New Mexico for at least a year and were not convicted felons.
Those minimal qualifications resulted in many commissioners who were not able to do the job well. So Think New Mexico’s constitutional amendment and the law enacted the following year to implement it required that PRC commissioners have at least 10 years of relevant work experience or education.
These reforms have had a very positive effect. Current commissioners include an environmental engineer, an attorney, a business executive and people with experience in state and federal government.
In northern New Mexico, there is an election for a PRC seat between a Democrat who is a civil engineer and a former mayor, and a Libertarian who has a PhD in physics and runs a green energy company. Contrary to the core argument of proponents of Constitutional Amendment 1, the PRC doesn’t lack for professional qualifications, and the criminal behavior it references has not been a problem since voters overwhelmingly passed the 2012 constitutional amendment.
The current system strikes a good balance by requiring commissioners to be qualified to do the job while still being accountable to the public that elects them. I encourage you to vote against Constitutional Amendment 1.
Fred Nathan Jr.