Dec 6 - 12, 2012 
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News Bite

By Margaret Wright

The ABCs of the PRC—The average Jane doesn’t care about the Public Regulation Commission. It’s one of those state agencies with duties so technical that a case on its docket reads like legalese gobbledegook. Yet the PRC can have a major impact on day-to-day details of an average Jane’s life.

District 1 Commissioner Jason Marks reflected on his eight-year tenure and offered a glimpse into how the agency’s decisions make a difference.

For one, he was passionate about decreasing the outrageously high phone bills for state prison inmates and their families. “Folks that this affects can’t afford it,” he says. “We heard multiple people tell us that they had to choose between answering a collect call and paying their rent.”

The PRC capped those fees in New Mexico in the spring. And in October, the commission passed a resolution asking the FCC to protect people calling home from out-of-state prisons. Marks also called on a national association to get behind reforms on a larger scale. “We got it done in New Mexico, and we also got some momentum nationally,” he says. “It’s pretty important for the FCC to take action on this.” Federal prison phone providers are still unregulated.

Marks says people should also be aware of the upcoming expiration of a national wind power tax credit. He says he hopes New Mexicans will push lawmakers to renew the credit—with some conditions: “It should be renewed for five to six years on a declining scale that takes it down to zero,” he says.

Wind is the cheapest renewable energy source we have today, Marks says. The state produces about 700 megawatts from wind farms, he adds, with the potential to develop about 20 times more commercially. (A single one-megawatt wind turbine can average enough electricity for about 300 homes.) “If you talk to the industry, they can live without the credit over the long-term, but the uncertainty about it has really been a huge problem. Stopping it cold turkey will be a shock to the system, and wind power could be really good to New Mexico.”

Finally, Marks says he was relieved that the state constitutional amendments regarding the PRC were all approved by voters. The changes take some industries off the PRC’s plate. Marks says he would have appreciated being pulled in fewer directions during his time as a commissioner.

He hopes the Legislature will create strong requirements for incoming PRC members, he says. The material the PRC deals with is so financially and legally complex, Marks says, that it’s been a problem not having commissioners on board who could handle the load.

 
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