A state Senate committee tabled a bill Tuesday night that would overhaul the Public Regulation Commission, all but ensuring its death this session.
The bill, which would dramatically alter the structure of the commission that regulates utility companies in the state, had been gaining momentum after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham backed it and the House approved it by a narrow margin Sunday.
The legislation would shift nearly every division within the commission to another state agency under the authority of the governor. It also would make the PRC chief of staff a position appointed by the governor rather than selected by commissioners.
But the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee voted 5-3 to table it, with the panel’s chairman arguing the bill was “premature” because voters will decide on a constitutional amendment related to the commission in the next election.
“We’re putting the cart before the horse,” said committee chairman Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, who voted in favor of tabling the bill.
“We need to wait and see what happens in November.”
Sanchez added that he did not plan to hold any more committee meetings this session and that tabling the motion meant the bill would not move forward.
Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, said he agreed with restructuring the commission but opposed the legislation.
“I thought it gave the governor too much power,” he said.
Rep. Nathan Small, a Las Cruces Democrat and the bill’s co-sponsor, said the decision was “unfortunate” but that he looked forward to taking up the proposal in the future.
“We have so many challenges that improving the commission’s structure will only grow in importance,” he said.
House Speaker Brian Egolf declined to comment on the Senate panel’s decision Tuesday night.
The Governor’s Office has said the legislation stemmed in part from frustration over the commission not immediately deciding to apply the Energy Transition Act in a case that was ultimately decided by the New Mexico Supreme Court. The court ruled that the energy law applies to the closure of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington.