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House’s newest member is quickly learning the ropes

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SANTA FE – As the Legislature’s newest member, Rep. Vickie Perea is learning how to navigate the Roundhouse on the fly.

But Perea, a Belen Republican who was appointed to the House of Representatives by Gov. Susana Martinez in November, appears to be learning quickly – she has already introduced two bills since the 30-day session began last week.

“It’s an exciting time,” Perea told the Journal on Wednesday. “Bills are being introduced left and right.”

Perea was appointed to the Legislature to fill the seat previously held by Rep. Stephen Easley, an Eldorado Democrat. Easley died in August.

Some top-ranking Democrats complained after Martinez appointed Perea, saying a Democrat should have been appointed to the seat.

Meanwhile, both of the bills proposed by Perea – one to increase DWI penalties and another to make the punishment for child enticement convictions uniform – are Martinez-backed initiatives.

However, the state’s newest lawmaker said she’s not in Santa Fe merely to advance the governor’s agenda.

“I’ll look at everything,” Perea said. “I’m definitely learning about different bills, and I will do everything I can to study all the issues.”

A former Democrat who cited opposition to same-sex marriage and partial-birth abortion as reasons she switched parties and joined the GOP in 2004, Perea previously served as president of the Albuquerque City Council.

Although she was unsuccessful in subsequent campaigns for secretary of state and the state Senate, Perea said her background in elected office has made for a smoother transition into the Legislature.

She said she intends to seek election later this year for a new two-year term representing House District 50, which encompasses parts of four counties and stretches from Valencia County to the outskirts of Santa Fe.

And while some Roundhouse insiders have cited Perea as a key swing vote in the House, where Democrats hold a 37-33 edge over Republicans, she insisted she’s not focusing on political intrigue.

“That’s the first I’ve heard about that,” she said.

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