PRC candidate requirements not being enforced, critics say - Albuquerque Journal

PRC candidate requirements not being enforced, critics say

SANTA FE – For the first time, non-incumbent New Mexico Public Regulation Commission candidates are facing a requirement this year that they possess a certain amount of educational and work experience.

The verdict so far? All candidates running for seats on the five-member PRC have affirmed they have the necessary qualifications – and none of their claims has been formally challenged.

But disagreements have arisen over the process used to gauge whether candidates meet the minimum requirements.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office says the fledgling state law clearly stipulates that only voters can contest whether a PRC candidate fails to meet the qualifications. Such challenges must be filed in state court by an already-passed deadline.

Determining whether a candidate meets the new standards is “not the role of the secretary of state,” Duran’s chief of staff, Ken Ortiz, told the Journal .

The Secretary of State’s Office has required all PRC candidates to sign an affidavit stating that they meet the minimum criteria.

However, Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, who co-sponsored the 2013 bill that established the minimum qualifications, said the affidavit form developed by the Secretary of State’s Office does not go far enough.

“The legislation clearly intended for candidates to list their qualifications, not just sign a piece of paper,” Keller told the Journal .

He also said he’d like to see the Secretary of State’s office play a more active role in determining the validity of a candidate’s qualifications.

Similarly, PRC Commissioner Valerie Espinoza, D-Santa Fe, said the new law should be amended to require candidates to show proof of their qualifications. She also said the time period should be extended for filing court challenges. Currently, such challenges must be filed within 10 days after a candidate files to run.

“If nobody is going to be the gatekeeper of the criteria, then pretty much anybody can still run,” Espinoza said.

The new qualifications for the scandal-tainted PRC were signed into law in 2013, after state voters overwhelmingly passed a 2012 constitutional amendment that was one of several changes aimed at overhauling the powerful regulatory agency.

Under the final version of the bill, the minimum requirements for PRC members are as follows: At least 10 years of professional experience in an area regulated by the PRC, or a combined 10 years of relevant work and higher education experience. The higher education piece must be accompanied by a license or degree in order to count.

There is also a third way to meet the qualifications requirement, as incumbent PRC commissioners were grandfathered in under the law and deemed automatically qualified.

Three incumbent PRC commissioners – Ben Hall, R-Ruidoso; Pat Lyons, R-Cuervo and Theresa Becenti-Aguilar, D-Albuquerque – are up for re-election this year, although Becenti-Aguilar was defeated by former PRC member Lynda Lovejoy in the June primary election.

Another former commissioner, Sandy Jones, a Democrat, is running against Hall in PRC District 5, while Lyons and Lovejoy are unopposed in the Nov. 4 general election.

Both Jones and Lovejoy could likely include their PRC experience as part of their qualifications. Neither candidate has faced a voter challenge.

Jones, who does not have a college degree, believes beefed-up training for PRC commissioners would be more helpful than the minimum qualifications, though he said of the new law: “I hope it’s a success for the PRC, because the PRC needs it.”

Meanwhile, Fred Nathan, executive director of Think New Mexico, a Santa Fe-based think tank that promoted the PRC overhaul, said Lovejoy and other candidates have already touted the minimum qualifications on the campaign trail.

“It will take a few election cycles for the results of the higher standards to make an impact at the PRC, but we are confident that they will eventually make a big positive difference over the long term,” Nathan said.

The fledgling law also requires that all PRC commissioners complete ethics training and at least 32 hours per year of continuing education.

Home » News » New Mexico News » PRC candidate requirements not being enforced, critics say

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

Woman-owned automotive company to expand to two new locations ...
ABQnews Seeker
Jesse Jackson, the owner of Mango ... Jesse Jackson, the owner of Mango Automotive and "Auto Repair Queen", said she and her c ...
New rotisserie restaurant setting up shop on the West ...
ABQnews Seeker
At Fuego 505, Chef Raul Maestas ... At Fuego 505, Chef Raul Maestas is bringing the fire. Literally. The new restaurant, which is openin ...
Real estate firm building its own industrial space in ...
ABQnews Seeker
Project came out of shortage of ... Project came out of shortage of space in Albuquerque area
City: Coronado Park is officially closed
ABQnews Seeker
Coronado Park, home to one of ... Coronado Park, home to one of Albuquerque’s largest and most visible unsanctioned homeless encampments, has officially closed. Albuquerque city officials confirmed Wednesday afternoon that ...
Los Ranchos approves short-term freeze on developments
ABQnews Seeker
Move will not affect projects that ... Move will not affect projects that stirred residents to protest in recent weeks
Third New Mexico film partner to be based in ...
ABQnews Seeker
California-based 828 Productions will relocate its ... California-based 828 Productions will relocate its headquarters to Las Cruces.
Water release temporarily closes Santa Rosa Lake boat ramp
ABQnews Seeker
The boat ramp at Santa Rosa ... The boat ramp at Santa Rosa Lake State Park will be closed temporarily due to a significant water release by the U.S. Army Corps ...
Pedestrian in critical condition after crash
ABQnews Seeker
A pedestrian was transported to University ... A pedestrian was transported to University of New Mexico Hospital with severe head trauma after he was struck by a vehicle Tuesday, Albuquerque police ...
NM revenue explosion continues, as lawmakers weigh next steps
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico's revenue jackpot shows no ... New Mexico's revenue jackpot shows no signs of slowing down, with inflation-related consumer spending, strong wage growth and increased oil production propelling the state's ...