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Money, Politics and Informed Decisions
Don’t get confused by the amendments and bond issues you’re being asked to approve, or not, on this year’s important ballot. Here’s our two-cents.
Constitution Amendment Number One
Basically this proposes a few things: It would reduce the number of Public Regulation Commission members from five to three, with no more than two members from the same political party; it changes the way members of the PRC are selected by having the governor appoint them for six-year terms. In addition it tightens the scope of the PRC’s constitutionally granted regulatory powers to public utilities such as gas, oil, electric, cable, etc. It will still allow the legislature to delegate responsibility for the regulation of other public service companies to the commission as it sees fit.
Pros: By removing the commission member selection from electoral politics, it is thought that the commissioners may be able to be more unbiased and focus on the interests of the ratepayers, rather than each individual district where there may be political pressure. Those proposed to be commissioners would be more vetted than partisan, possibly unqualified candidates who can just decide to run for the office on a whim. Since this is a quasi-judicial entity, more screening of appropriate qualifications would also help give the public confidence that commissioners have the experience and training necessary to make complex utility regulation decisions. Sierra Club, Conservation Voters of NM and Governor Lujan Grisham support this amendment.
Cons: This is a beauty shop amendment, as it will not fundamentally change how the PRC actually functions. It leaves it up to the sometimes wishy-washy legislature to come up with guidelines along with what qualifications the commissioners will be required to have. Voters will no longer have the power to hold commissioners accountable for their actions that actually electing residents from districts provides. And the process to remove a corrupt commissioner would be more complicated. Think NM and the Republican Party of NM opposed the measure.
Pros: This would allow for the legislature to ensure the uniformity of elections and to balance the number of offices on the ballots. This measure says it will protect against legislative overreach by requiring the lawmaking body to prove its case before support can be given to an adjustment. This would also help with the long, overloaded ballots, therefore increasing efficiency.
Cons: This gives lawmakers even more power over election policy issues, and some say it could be legally challenged. It may be overly broad. Some incumbent officeholders will gain an extra two years in office, while others get shorted two years due to things outside of their performance. When the election cycles are being synched, term limits will not apply to affected offices.
General obligation bonds are financial mechanisms that let government entities borrow money against property tax revenue to pay for mainly capital improvements such as buildings, roads and equipment.
Three statewide bonds totaling about $200 million are waiting for your vote. These include $33.2 million for senior centers, $9.75 million for libraries and $156.3 million for higher education, special schools and tribal schools capital improvements.
Bernalillo County has six bond requests totaling about $65 million on the ballot. Waiting to keep our Bernalillo County community livable are $2.25 million for libraries, $13.45 million for county and public safety facilities improvements, $16.8 million for parks and recreation improvements, $4.3 million for transportation improvements as roadway, pedestrian and bicycle path improvements, $2.25 million for storm drainage and utilities improvements, $1.5 million for public housing and $25 million for flood control.
Pros: All of these projects are considered pretty much necessary to our quality of life here in New Mexico, and Bernalillo County. We all want better roads, parks, senior centers, flood control and all the other projects these bonds will provide. [ ]