Thursday, May 29, 2008

PRC 1: Jason Marks Airs TV Ad

Jason Marks, who's running in the Dem primary for a second term on the Public Regulation Commmission in District 1, is airing a TV ad (above) touting his impressive achievements in his first term. Marks is the current chair of the PRC. Known as a strong supporter of clean, renewable energy, Marks has earned high marks in many quarters and on both sides of the aisle for his advocacy on the part of consumers and his tough but fair negotiating skills. You can read what people are saying about Marks here.

Marks is one of my favorite public servants and he's decided to run this time using New Mexico's public campaign financing program enacted a couple years ago for PRC candidates. In other words, he won't be beholden to special interests because he won't be seeking high-dollar campaign contributions from all the wrong people.

Marks will be free to keep on representing the people, while giving a fair shake to the business community. He can keep fighting to do what's right when he deals with the complicated and often controversial issues that come before the PRC -- without pressure from those who've given large donations to his camapaign. He can continue to apply common sense and maintain high ethical standards when working to meet the challenges faced by the PRC in terms of energy, telecommunications, insurance, water, transportation and other important regulatory matters.

Please take the time to vote for Jason Marks for PRC in District 1 in the June 3rd primary next Tuesday to demonstrate strong Dem support for his candidacy. Then think about getting involved in Marks' general election campaign where he'll face a tough -- and probably nasty -- GOP challenge from either Alan Reed or Tim Cummins. The Repubs don't like public servants who serve the public instead of the vested interests. But we do! Get involved.

To see our previous coverage of Jason Marks' re-election campaign, visit our archive.

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May 29, 2008 at 02:54 PM in 2008 PRC Election | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Jason Marks: PRC/Feldman Health Insurance Bill Makes New Mexico a Leader in Consumer Protection

Jmarks_3This is a guest blog by Jason Marks, NM Public Regulation Commission Chairman, discussing an important health insurance reform bill just signed by Gov. Bill Richardson. The legislation is getting national praise and attention, including including a front-page story in USA Today:

As everyone knows by now, the 2008 New Mexico Legislature was unable to come to consensus on any of several competing healthcare reform proposals. Except that’s not entirely true. Moving through the Legislature outside of the media spotlight, a health insurance reform bill that originated with the PRC and its then-Chairman Ben Ray Luján, was passed and signed into law. This legislation, Senate Bill 226, sponsored by Senator Dede Feldman (D-Alb, below left) puts New Mexico into the forefront of consumer protection in at least two areas that help families obtain and keep needed coverage.

Dfeldman1New Mexico has become the second state in the country to enact a law limiting insurers’ ability to rescind health insurance policies and/or deny paying claims based on mis-statements on the insured’s original application for coverage. Until Senate Bill 226, insurance companies could retroactively rescind coverage during the first two years of a policy after a patient developed an expensive medical condition that the insurer didn’t want to cover. The insurer could decide that they’d rather refund your premiums and stick you with the responsibility for paying large medical bills. The insurer merely had to point to a relevant mistake or omission on the original application for coverage -- even if that mistake was unintentional. The PRC/Feldman bill raises the standard of proof so as to require the insurer to show that the applicant’s statements or omissions were willful or fraudulent.

Senate Bill 226 also extends the allowable lapse in “creditable coverage” from 63 to 95 days. Currently, if someone loses coverage under a group plan and applies for alternative coverage within 63 days, the period during which the individual was not covered is counted against any waiting periods on pre-existing conditions. The bill allows more time to seek alternate coverage. Several other states have increased their maximum lapse to around 90 days, but at 95 days, New Mexico has the most consumer-friendly standard in the nation. Lastly, Senate Bill 226 raises the minimum cap on coverage for policies under the N.M. Minimum Healthcare Protection Act from $50,000 to $100,000.

LujancommThis all started during the summer of 2007, when PRC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (right) arranged for several PRC discussions on the subject of healthcare and health insurance reform. With unanimous support from the Commission, Luján directed the PRC’s Insurance Division to look for ways to improve health insurance coverage for New Mexico families. As the options began to come together, Commissioner Luján, our Superintendent of Insurance, Mo Chavez (below left), and I met with Senator Feldman to discuss legislative approaches to healthcare reform in New Mexico. Senate Bill 226 was the result. The bill’s enactment fixes the three “gotchas” that have kept needed health insurance coverage from some families while we wait for comprehensive healthcare reform.

Mochavez_2Although Senate Bill 226 received little local media coverage, the PRC/Feldman health insurance reform legislation has drawn national attention, including a front-page story in USA Today, coverage in trade journals, and inquiries from ABC Nightly News.

The most important part of the story, is of course, that the reforms that have now been signed into law by Governor Richardson will provide real benefits to consumers. But almost as important to the long term is the change that this effort signifies at the PRC’s Insurance Division. Only two years ago, a different Superintendent of Insurance was in office and his main legislative priority that year was a bill to relax certain regulatory standards so that troubled insurance companies could relocate to New Mexico. Lobbyists were involved, as were rumors of campaign donations.

Fast forward to today, where we are seeing the fruits of commitments Commissioner Luján and I made to clean up the Insurance Division, reorient it more towards protecting and serving consumers, and to appoint a replacement Superintendent of Insurance who shared our values and vision. New Mexico may not have achieved all the healthcare reform progress that was hoped for this past year (or that is needed). But we have made to a point where we are getting national recognition for our leadership in protecting insurance consumers, and not for our regulatory failings and scandals.

This is a guest blog by Jason Marks, Chairman of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Commissioner Marks is running for reelection in November and has qualified for public campaign funding for his race. Fantastic. To learn more, visit his website.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

March 7, 2008 at 12:10 AM in 2008 PRC Election, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Eschewing the Dash-for-Cash: Marks' Re-Election First to Qualify for Public Financing in 2008

JmarksPublic Regulation Commission Chairman Jason Marks has announced that his reelection campaign qualifies for public financing. Chairman Marks’ campaign is the first PRC campaign in 2008 to meet all the requirements in order to receive public campaign financing. Marks’ campaign filed over 400 five-dollar qualifying contributions with the Secretary of State’s office last week, along with other required forms and certifications, and quickly learned that more than enough of the contributions have been officially confirmed as coming from registered voters in the district, an essential requirement in qualifying for public financing.

Marks’ reelection campaign displayed strong and timely effort in gathering the required qualifying contributions. Chairman Marks explains, “the help of volunteers, along with a strong showing of support from voters throughout the Albuquerque area, and from all political parties, allowed us to submit more than enough qualifying contributions . . . and to do it well before the final deadline of March 18, 2008. Everything is now in place for us to receive campaign funds from the Secretary of State immediately following ballot qualifying, which is also on March 18.”

“Public financing of elections is the best way yet devised to remove the undue influence money on has our democratic system,” per Marks. With the prospect that his successful campaign this year will lead to the expansion of public financing to more New Mexico elected offices in the future, he emphasizes what it means for his campaign today. “Right now, qualifying for public financing means that our PRC reelection campaign can focus on the concerns of voters between now and November and not on the dash-for-cash.”

Jason Marks is currently Chairman of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. He's running for reelection to a second four-year term on the PRC from District 1 in the Albuquerque area. To learn more about Jason Marks, visit his website.

To see our previous coverage of this race, visit our archive.

March 5, 2008 at 01:22 PM in 2008 PRC Election | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Guest Blog: PRC Candidate Jason Marks

Jmarks_3This is a guest blog by Democrat Jason Marks, who's currently Chairman of the Public Regulation Commission. Jason is running for reelection to a second four-year term on the PRC from District 1 in the Albuquerque area, and using public campaign funding to do so. See below the fold to learn how you can help keep a clean election (and clean energy) advocate on the PRC.

“We have the best government money can buy.” 

In unguarded moments, elected officials have been heard to acknowledge that large campaign contributions buy “access,” but in no event -  no how, no way - does a contribution ever buy a vote or official decision.  Yet, outcomes we see from our political system seem impossible to explain aside from money and campaign contributions exerting a disproportionate and undue influence.

I learned this first-hand in 2005, in my first month on the PRC when Qwest “introduced” a bill in the Legislature to end its obligation to put $2 million/year into a fund supporting rural phone line extensions, thereby increasing the company’s profits by that same amount.  This fund had been created in the late 1980s as an alternative to a $2 million Qwest rate decrease.  After examining the issue, I agreed with Qwest that it no longer made sense to put an additional $2 million/year into this fund, but disagreed that Qwest was entitled to put the money into its own pocket - it was originally ratepayer money and the only fair solution was to tie the termination of Qwest’s annual funding obligation to a rate decrease.   I screwed up my courage and argued this before one Legislative committee after another, only to see Qwest’s bill pass through each. 

Unlike many business vs. consumer debates where lawmakers can justify their support of the business side by saying a new regulation “will cost jobs” or “deny consumers choice,” this Qwest bill had no other side - it was $2 million of unjustified profit for Qwest at the expense of  $2 million for ratepayers.  Using some political chits in the House, we were able to force an amendment so that Qwest would only get half the ratepayer money.  This version passed both houses and would have become law except for a Governor’s veto (there’s a story in that, too).  With that lucky break, later that year, I was able to push through a docket at the PRC dealt with the issue fairly:  Qwest $2 million/yr funding requirement was ended in exchange for a permanent 19 cent/month decrease in all New Mexico phone rates.

As my example shows, in matters with low visibility to the public, the interests of constituents and voters can wind up under-represented at the expense of making big-dollar contributors happy.  Fortunately, thanks to activists for ethical government in Arizona, Maine, and elsewhere, we now have an alternative model for financing political campaigns that cuts out the distorting influence of money for a few offices.   New Mexico’s publicly financed election law substitutes a measured amount of publicly-provided campaign financing for qualifying candidates in exchange for their pledge not to seek or accept private contributions beyond a limited amount of “seed money.”   Today, public campaign financing is available at the state level only for Public Regulation Commission and appellate judicial (Supreme Court and Court of Appeal) races.   At least two candidates ran for PRC in 2006 using public financing, but neither was successful.   But here in Albuquerque, a version of this system was used successfully by progressive candidates in the last city council election!!!

This year, I am running for reelection as your Public Regulation Commissioner for the Albuquerque area. Those who know my work at the PRC know I can’t be bought-off by big campaign contributions from corporate interests. But I need the help of all who believe in clean elections as I run my reelection campaign under the state’s public financing law.  We need to show success with the state-level public financing law in order to argue for exanding it to more offices in the future.

In just three years on the PRC, I have proven myself by:

  • holding Qwest accountable for their investment shortfall
  • sponsoring and passing a three-year rate freeze for basic telephone services and eliminating the $85 “trouble isolation charge”
  • reducing PNM’s gas rate increase request by more than half
  • fighting the title insurance industry for needed reforms
  • moving New Mexico towards a clean and sustainable energy future with PRC rules that create targets for large scale solar energy and distributed generation
  • passing regulations to discourage utilities from building any new coal-fired generating plants that contribute to climate change
  • ending unethical practices in the PRC’s Insurance Division, and replacing the former Insurance Superintendent and his chief deputy
  • keeping my promise by keeping the 505 Area Code in Albuquerque.

How You Can Help
Despite this strong record of accomplishments on the PRC, I am drawing opposition in my drive for reelection. Prior to my election in November 2004, the district I represent had been held by a Republican since it was created in 1998, and word on the street is that they want it back. Moreover, the PRC has an unfortunate history of being looked at by long time politicos as an opportunity to sneak into a cushy, well-paid state job on the strength of a familiar name. I can promise you, I won’t let the PRC revert to the bad old days of ineffective partisans. I am a strong campaigner and I will hold this seat. But I can’t do it alone - people who support my work and people who support the concept of clean elections need to show that support with $5 contribution in my name to the public election fund so that I can qualify for public financing for my campaign.

In order to qualify for public financing, I must collect several hundred $5 qualifying contributions from voters in PRC District 1. These contributions can be in cash, or in a check payable to "Public Election Fund" – not to my campaign. The Secretary of State has a special form that needs to be filled out for each qualifying contribution. The form and further instructions can be downloaded from my website at Each member of your household who is a registered voter in PRC District 1 can submit a qualifying contribution and get me to my goal faster. (One qualifying contribution per person is the limit, so if you've already helped in this way, thanks!) Please go to the website and download the form today - our deadline is approaching:

Jason Marks

This is a guest blog by Democratic PRC candidate Jason Marks. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

January 28, 2008 at 01:48 PM in 2008 PRC Election | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Jason Marks Elected PRC Chair

Jasonmarks2Congratulations Jason! The AP reports that Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks (right) has been elected by his fellow commissioners as the agency's new chairman, succeeding Ben Ray Lujan in that post. Lujan remains on the PRC serving his present term, and is running as a Democrat in the NM-03 2008 Congressional race. Marks, who represents PRC District 1 in the Albuquerque area, was elected to the PRC in 2004 and has served as vice chairman for three years. Commissioner Sandy Jones of PRC District 5, another Democrat, was selected as the new vice chairman.

Marks, a Democrat known as "the consumers' watchdog," is running for reelection to the PRC this year and is expected draw a Republican challenger. I guess they don't like his common sense views on global warming and renewable energy, as expressed in his recent op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal entitled, "Big-Oil Subsidies Aren't Key to Energy Future." As Marks writes,

Across the country, especially in states like New Mexico that have renewable portfolio standards, the public is benefiting environmentally and economically from the placement of wind, solar and biomass plants.

These renewable projects provide jobs and revenues to rural communities, and in our experience here in New Mexico, wind energy is a lower cost supply of electricity than natural gas!

You can read more about Marks' views on the PRC's role in dealing with the challenge of "a transition from fossil fuel dependence to an energy future based on clean and sustainable technologies" in a text version of his campaign kickoff speech I posted in October. It's a keeper.

January 4, 2008 at 03:55 PM in 2008 PRC Election, Energy, Local Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 15, 2007

PRC Reelection Candidate Jason Marks: The Speech

Consumer watchdogs: Jason Marks & his canine sidekick Kiko campaigning at Focus Ink's progressive gathering last month.

As I reported previously, Dem Jason Marks kicked off his reelection campaign last week for the District 1 New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) seat. The event was well attended and Marks gave an excellent speech about his accomplishments so far and his goals for a second term. Since the response to the speech was so positive, I asked Marks for a text version so more people could learn what he had to say. Here it is (pdf). Excerpt:

The PRC has - under the right leadership - a key role to play in the challenge of our generation - the transition from fossil fuel dependence to an energy future that is based on clean and sustainable technologies.

Fossil fuels have been very good to our country, our world, and for New Mexico. Exploiting fossil fuel energy has made possible our modern standard of living. Here in New Mexico, oil and gas have been important sources of economic growth and development.

But today, continued reliance on fossil fuels presents more risks than opportunities. We’ve all experienced the doubling of gasoline costs, and we’ve seen natural gas for home heating, that used to be around $3 per 1000 BTUs, go past $14 with Hurricane Katrina and never go back, staying in a range of $6 to $10. Even coal prices have increased dramatically. Fossil fuel prices will continue to rise, and expose us to financial risks we don’t want to bear.

At the same time, fossil fuel use is the main driver for catastrophic environmental risk. Climate change is already occurring, and we are already seeing slightly warmer winters and slightly hotter summers. A respected climate scientist at UNM has projected that we will see 2 to 3 degree temperature increases over the next 20 years, no matter what we do now. And, if we do nothing, temperatures in our region will go up by 6 to 7 degrees by the end of the century.

Climate shift of that magnitude will decimate New Mexico’s agriculture, our outdoor recreation economy, our hunting, fishing, skiing. Our children and grandchildren won’t have the opportunity to enjoy the New Mexico that we love. Residents of coastal areas would have it even worse, losing their homes and livelihoods to rising sea levels.

Forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are produced from electric generation, most of that from the burning of coal, like we do out in the Four-Corners. Commission Lujan and I have made public commitments that we will do everything possible to prevent New Mexico electric utilities from building new pulverized coal plants! (The proposed Desert Rock plant is directed at selling power outside of New Mexico, so it’s not in our jurisdiction.) We will look at advanced coal technology that sequesters carbon dioxide emissions, and we push the deployment of solar, wind, and other renewables.

... Most recently, the Commission adopted rules for the Renewable Portfolio Standard that I proposed which create diversity targets for solar energy and distributed generation. New Mexico’s solar resource has the potential to take over a large portion of our electricity needs over time, but we have to start developing it. The new rules require utilities to actually build large scale solar plants, instead of merely offering vague plans for the future. We believe that we can do this without big rate increases, and the rules establish rate impact caps at 2% for 2011.

These rules were controversial. We got strong support from scientists, engineers, environmental advocates, and ordinary citizens, but the utilities did not think it was our role to tell them what kind of plants to build.

Unfortunately the group that believes utility execs are best positioned to make decisions for the public would love to roll-back the progress we’ve made. That cannot be allowed to happen.

I hope you'll give the entire speech a read and then sign up to volunteer for or donate to the Jason Marks campaign. He's seeking petition signatures as well as small donations of "seed money" for what will be a publicly funded campaign down the line. I think Marks is a top notch and very ethical PRC member, with a sincere dedication to pushing for renewable energy development and the mitigation of greenhouse gas production in New Mexico. It's very important to get him reelected. The word is Repubs will be targeting this race and you know what that means -- a rollback of the new energy regulations and who knows what else if they succeed. Let's get active now and head them off at the pass.

Many voters are unclear about the critical and powerful role played by the PRC. Our 5 PRC commissioners are responsible for regulating and providing oversight of a myriad of industries. You can read about their responsibilities here. It's a complicated and often thankless job. We're lucky to have someone of Jason Marks' caliber on the commission. Let's keep it that way.

Click on photo for larger image. Photo credit: M.E. Broderick.

October 15, 2007 at 01:09 PM in 2008 PRC Election, Energy, Environment | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jason Marks PRC Reelection Campaign Kickoff Set for Oct. 10th

MarkswatchgodHelp reelect your consumer watchdog! Jason Marks is one of our most progressive and ethical members of the Public Regulation Commission (PRC). Marks has long been a supporter of and participant in Democratic grassroots politics and has worked hard to represent the interests of ordinary people on the PRC. He's also a strong advocate for clean and renewable energy. Marks is up for reelection in 2008 in District 1 (Albuquerque area) and will kick off his campaign with a get-together and "seed money" fundraiser next month. I plan to be there and hope you will be too:

Jasonmarks2Jason Marks - PRC District 1
2008 Reelection Campaign
Kick-Off and Fundraiser
Wed., October 10, 2007, 6-8 PM
Ladera Golf Course Banquet Room
3401 Ladera Drive NW, Albuquerque

Click for FLYER (pdf). Click for a description of highlights from Jason Marks' service on the PRC from 2005-07.

Keep Jason working hard for us:

  • Holding Qwest Accountable
  • Fighting for a Clean and Sustainable Energy Future
  • Restoring Respect and Integrity to the PRC
  • Protecting Consumers from Rate Increases and Unfair Practices
  • Preserving the 505 Area Code

Suggested contribution - $50 (Jason will be running under public financing, but we need to raise "seed money" to operate our campaign until the financing is released in the Spring.) Jason appreciates seed money contributions up to the legal maximum of $100 per person. Personal and PAC contributions ONLY, no corporation or union allowed. For more info visit

Checks may be mailed to Jason Marks Reelection Fund, 4916 El Aguila NW, Albuquerque 87120

For more info on this event, call Maxine Marks at 573-4593 or email Jason Marks Reelection Fund, Ken Sanchez, Treasurer.

September 25, 2007 at 07:18 PM in 2008 PRC Election | Permalink | Comments (2)