I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Posts Tagged David King
Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. has struggled to pay more than $2,000 in debts over the past year, including one to a fellow commissioner and another to a youth group on whose board of directors he sits. Those debts are just the latest headache for Block, who said he has already paid $400,000 in legal fees to defend himself against criminal charges stemming his handling of public campaign funds.
Legislators have drafted a constitutional amendment and companion legislation that would abolish the controversial Public Regulation Commission (PRC), New Mexico’s most powerful regulatory agency. The move came as a surprise to commissioners.
Just a week after a deadly pipeline blast in California, officials from Mountainair were disappointed to find PRC commissioners reluctant to approve what they had expected to be a routine regulatory waiver.
“There’s this pattern of companies doing something but not doing enough, not taking things seriously enough,” Commissioner Marks said. “It’s not that they don’t care. The problem is that the responses aren’t sufficiently large, given the scale of the dangers.”
The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) has fined Picacho Hills Utility Company owner Stephen Blanco $950,000 and the utility itself $50,000, for dozens of violations of state public utility law and PRC rules and orders.
The $1 million…
The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) will likely apportion much of a record $1 million to $1.5 million fine against the Picacho Hills Utility Company directly to owner Stephen Blanco, according to PRC chairman David King.…
The PRC voted Thursday to fine the small, 800-customer Picacho Hills Utility Company an unprecedented $1 million to $1.5 million in a case that involved allegations of embezzlement, witness intimidation, perjury, and a long-standing and unresolved threat to residents’ health: untreated sewer contaminating the affluent neighborhood’s golf course. The owner of the company claims the charges and fines are intended to force him to sell his utility — and its water rights, which he said were recently appraised for $18 million.
The Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) rebuffed proposals from legislators that would dismember the controversy-plagued agency, moving its Division of Insurance, Transportation Bureau and other regulatory programs to other agencies.
“We’re a young agency and we’re sorting out some…
The Government Restructuring Task Force, a panel researching how to make state government more efficient, has several scenarios before it…
The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) might not issue a record $850,000 fine or order a fraud audit of a Las Cruces water utility’s finances despite protests from some of its staff. The difference of opinion emerged during a PRC hearing Tuesday.
“This paves the way for the public vetting of the factors underlying the rate increase,” Public Regulation Commission (PRC) Commissioner Jason Marks told The Independent at the Supreme Court. “The public can’t help but benefit from hearings.”
After hearing oral arguments from Blue Cross attorney Paul Bardacke, Attorney General Gary King and Insurance Division attorney David Barton, justices retired to chambers for approximately 25 minutes Wednesday morning. They briefly emerged for Justice Petra Jimenez Maes to announce the court was denying the company’s petition.
Insurers should not be subject to repeated hearings after a rate hike has been approved by the insurance superintendent, Bardacke argued.
“Where is the finality for consumers, first of all?” he asked in oral arguments before the court.
But the Supreme Court was not the appropriate venue for the case, Maes stated Wednesday morning, echoing Barton’s oral argument that the high court’s intervention would only be appropriate if Blue Cross had no other recourse to appeal the Division’s decision. Under state law, Blue Cross can appeal a withdrawal of any rate hike approval in district court.
“We respect the finding of the Court and will be at the hearing August 25,” Bardacke, who represents Blue Cross Blue Shield NM, told The Independent. “We were pleased Attorney General Gary King indicated the (rate hike) settlement was fair and equitable, and in the best interest of all New Mexicans.”
The Attorney General’s office had helped negotiate and stood by the controversial rate hike settlement, but Gary King appeared before the Supreme Court to defend the Insurance Superintendent’s authority to hold public hearings and review the justification for the rate hike.
The Insurance Superintendent has discretion under state law to hold the scheduled hearings, Gary King argued.
“A final order reversing approval would not be discretionary,” Gary King clarified to The Independent after the Court’s decision. “There would have to be some reason for rejecting the rate increase. There would have to be some different or additional evidence presented at the hearing” to reverse the rate hike approval.
“It’s a new day for consumers in New Mexico,” PRC chair David King told The Independent, adding that Legislature should now empower the PRC to hear appeals of future rate hikes. Currently, appeals must be filed in district court.
“I’m happy New Mexicans will get a chance for new hearings and we’ll do things now that should have been done orginally,” PRC Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. said. “Hopefully the surpluses prove that the rate increases are not justified and New Mexicans can be spared this increase. They have a lot of nerve to come ask for an increase, frankly.”
The state Public Regulation Commission (PRC) met in Aztec Thursday for a heated public meeting about proposed state regulations requiring the installation of fire sprinklers in newly constructed houses.
Home builders told commissioners the requirement would drive up…
The state Insurance Division will this week vacate its controversial April approval of a Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico health insurance rate hike settlement, Public Regulation Commission (PRC) chairman David King told The Independent Monday morning.
The move expected this week does not represent a formal rejection of the request or a final decision; it will simply restart the process.
Commissioner Jason Marks had condemned the settlement as “a back room deal.” Angry commissioners voted May 13 to order the Division to reverse its approval of the settlement, which was negotiated over a weekend without public hearings.
Rushton was replaced May 20 by Craig Dunbar, who could not vacate the agreement because a technicality prevented him from staying in the job; State law requires the insurance superintendent to have lived in New Mexico for three years, but Dunbar returned to New Mexico from Texas only last year.
Blue Cross Blue Shield attorneys had threatened to sue the PRC if the Division withdrew its approval for the rate hike. But concerned that Dunbar’s appointment might be challenged in court if he vacated the rate hike, because of the residency issue, commissioners decided to replace him, they told The Independent.
Incoming interim superintendent Johnny Montoya will vacate the Division’s approval this week, Dunbar and King said.
If that happens, the division will also clear a separate request to reverse the approval submitted by the original complainant in the case, Blue Cross Blue Shield NM policyholder and Albuquerque Attorney Jody Neal-Post. Jones defected from the settlement agreement May 27.
Describing Blue Cross Blue Shield as “a corporation with apparently endless litigation resources,” Neal-Post noted in a filing submitted to the Division Monday that the company had hired yet another attorney to fight her request that the settlement approval be vacated.
The PRC’s selection committee will begin reviewing candidates Tuesday for the permanent superintendent, King said. A “permanent” superintendent should be appointed by late summer, King said.
King questioned the constitutionality of residency requirements, noting that “many” candidates for the permanent superintendent position could not apply because they had not lived in New Mexico during the past three years.
‘Musical chairs’ at state Insurance Division: Blue Cross rate hike fight claims three superintendents in two months
In the latest round of what one commissioner described as “musical chairs” at the state Insurance Division, acting superintendent Craig Dunbar was replaced Thursday.
New Mexico could get more help with reviewing rate hike requests from health insurance companies if it gets a $1 million grant the federal government is offering to strengthen oversight of the process.
Interim state Insurance Superintendent Craig Dunbar will be asked to step down Thursday, following inquiries by The Independent regarding Dunbar’s residential history, PRC Chairman David King confirmed Wednesday.
State law requires insurance superintendents to have been New Mexico…
PNM filed a request last week for approval of another 21.2 percent hike that would take effect in April 2011. But two PRC commissioners said Tuesday they would not be open to accepting a rate hike settlement before next year. The Commission’s go-slow approach with PNM contrasts with the Insurance Division’s rushed weekend deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield—before public hearings on that company’s request.
“Unless he does something, it’s his to lose,” King, District 2′s…
The hotly contested Democratic primary for Public Regulation Commission (PRC) District 4 Commissioner Carol Sloan’s seat was won convincingly by the only woman and Native American in the race, Theresa Becenti-Aguilar.
With 35.8 percent of the Democratic primary vote,…
The PRC regulates the state’s electrical, natural gas, and water utilities, insurance industry, and administers…
Public Regulation Commission (PRC) Commissioner Jason Marks of Albuquerque, who is attending a two-day renewable energy transmission conference in Arizona, was “a little surprised” Thursday afternoon to learn other commissioners had appointed Craig Dunbar as the new…