Alibi V.21 No.20 • May 17-23, 2012 

Primary Election Guide 2012

Public Regulation Commission

District 1, Democrat candidates

Salary: $90,000/year

Term: Four years

Tasks: Regulates utilities, telecommunications, transportation and insurance industries to ensure fair, reasonable rates

District: The majority of the Albuquerque metro area, with the exception of the Southwest quadrant, part of the University area and much of the Westside (detailed map:

Cynthia Hall Karen Montoya Al Park
Background: She’s on leave from the Public Regulation Commission, where she was the staff attorney for the Insurance Division. Her responsibility was to read, analyze and then advise the PRC on cases. She founded the Anderson Field Alliance, a nonprofit that purchased more than 1,200 acres of Open Space in the Albuquerque metro area. Background: She’s got 20 years in tax assessment and regulation, including work as senior tax appraiser. She has a strong math background along with experience in trending data. Montoya is serving her second term as the only woman elected as Bernalillo County assessor. Background: Park is an Albuquerque attorney and has served in the New Mexico Legislature for 12 years beginning in 2000. He was an effective legislator who passed the lemon used car law, a bill reforming payday lending and the Whistleblower Protection Act, among others.
Goals: Hall wants to make sure the commission does a good job for the state’s ratepayers—not for political friends. She plans to continue to work for energy efficiency, renewable energy and getting the best deal for ratepayers in all the decisions she makes. Goals: Ethics reform is one of her priorities. She wants to make sure ratepayers are treated fairly by keeping utility rates low and reasonable. She also wants to upgrade the PRC’s technology, which she says will make the commission more streamlined.

Goals: Park says he likes the idea of cleaning up the PRC and using the commission to create more jobs in renewable energy. He supports moving the Corporations Division to the Secretary of State’s Office and creating an Independent Superintendent of Insurance.
Renewable Energy: Hall says we shouldn’t soften the plan to demand 20 percent renewable energy from PNM and other electric utilities by 2020. The 20 by 2020 standard says one-fifth of total energy generation must come from non-coal sources. She adds that we need to continue to investigate forms of renewable energy until they’re comparable price-wise to polluting sources. Renewable Energy: The standards should not be rolled back, she says. Montoya thinks utility companies need to be encouraged to diversify from coal to wind, solar, geothermal and other sources. Renewable Energy: Utility companies should not be given any breaks on their energy standards portfolios. Out-of-state utilities are not only meeting but exceeding standards, something PNM has said it can’t manage. He says PNM needs to be held accountable.
Appointed vs. Elected: Hall says elections have broken the Public Regulation Commission. A bipartisan committee should select commissioners instead. This would take the politics out of the position. Appointed vs. Elected: Montoya says this should remain an elected position because elected officials are held to a higher standard and are more accountable to the public. Appointed vs. Elected: The position should remain elected, Park says, because there’s more accountability when commissioners answer to voters.
Scandals: Hall says there must be minimum qualifications to be on the PRC, which would be a good start in restoring the public’s trust. There is too much at stake for unqualified people to take on this complicated, detail-heavy, quasi-judicial role. Commissioners should have a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience in law, engineering, economics or accounting. Scandals: She says she would put ethics policies into place and make sure they’re enforced, placing more responsibility for accountability on supervisors. She advocates putting in gas- and vehicle-tracking measures to limit how those benefits can be abused. Scandals: He supports legislation requiring minimum qualifications for PRC candidates. Independent ethics training should be mandatory for the commission and employees, says Park. An inspector general position should be created to coordinate staff training. That person should also be empowered to investigate any unethical behavior.
Transparency: Hall is strongly committed to transparency. She says live-streaming the commission meetings online would help more people across the state keep an eye on the PRC. “You don’t talk business with more than one other commissioner at at time” unless it’s an on-the-record public meeting, she adds. Transparency: She’s already made a habit of answering Inspection of Public Records Act requests quickly and completely, she says. Transparency: Most citizens don’t understand what the PRC does, he says. Commissioners need to put themselves more in the public eye. The PRC should publish agendas earlier, as well as webcast all meetings, he adds.
The Alibi Endorses Cynthia Hall: She understands the complicated job of a public regulation commissioner because she’s basically been doing the job as its staff attorney for years. She can hit the ground running and lead the commission into a new, productive era. She far outpaced her competitors in talking about the the nuances of the PRC. We’re relieved there’s someone this qualified in the race. Montoya lacks a passion for the PRC. It isn’t clear to us that she really wants the job. She’s a solid county assessor: She should keep her focus there. Park is smart and articulate, and he would be a lively, outspoken member of the commission. But he’s not thinking like a quasi-judicial regulator, which is the job description.
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