On Monday, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied a court challenge to the 2020 constitutional amendment that gave the governor full authority over the Public Regulation Commission (PRC), the most powerful regulator of utilities in the state.
The five-member, all-Democrat state Supreme Court is nearly entirely comprised of Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s appointees.
Justices C. Shannon Bacon and David K. Thomson were appointed by Lujan Grisham in 2019, Justice Julie J. Vargas was appointed in 2020, and Justice Briana H. Zamora was appointed to the Court in 2021. The only justice not appointed by Lujan Grisham is Chief Justice Michael E. Vigil, who was elected by the voters in 2018.
The amendment transformed the formerly elected commission to a three-member panel appointed by the governor. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the petition was filed by the Indigenous Lifeways, New Mexico Social Justice & Equity Institute, and the Three Sisters Collective.
“This case presents a unique circumstance where there’s a real risk of abuse of power,” said the groups’ attorney Sarah Shore. “There’s a transfer away from the people who in their own constitution reserve rights to themselves to the political branches. This is not a circumstance where the Legislature is proposing to change rights that the people already delegated.”
“Shore argued that the amendment should be struck from the state constitution because it illegally rolled several reforms into one ballot question for voters to decide. She said most voters are neither lawyers nor lawmakers and were misled since the ballot measure did not reference the effect on the public’s right to elect commission members,” reported the Associated Press.
The justices denied the request, claiming they did not believe the amendment amounted to logrolling, which would have been illegal.
Now, the PRC will be entirely controlled by the Democrat governor, who is sure to use it as a political weapon, as she has done in the past with her hostility toward energy producers.