MEREDITH – Saying she has unfinished work, including the adoption of a statewide energy plan, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, who has served District 2 since 2011 and been critical of “elective” energy projects like Northern Pass, will seek a third term.
A Republican, Forrester is chairman of the Senate’s Finance Committee and a member of its Public & Municipal Affairs Committee. First elected in 2010, when she defeated Democratic incumbent Deb Reynolds, Forrester won reelection in 2012 when she beat Democratic challenger Bob Lamb.
Senate District 2 comprises the towns of Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater, Bristol, Campton, Center Harbor, Danbury, Dorchester, Ellsworth, Grafton, Groton, Haverhill, Hebron, Hill, Holderness, New Hampton, Orange, Orford, Piermont, Plymouth, Rumney, Sanbornton, Tilton, Warren, Wentworth, Wilmot as well as Forrester’s hometown of Meredith.
“Probably four to five months ago, I really started seriously thinking about a third term,” Forrester said this past Sunday. However, “I don’t intend this to be a career for me.”
Forrester noted that elected office is something every Granite Stater, if possible, should pursue.
“For me, this is the No. 1 volunteer positions you can do for the state,” said Forrester, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of New Hampshire, and, while working on the staff of then Gov. John H. Sununu, earned her business degree at the Whittemore School of Business & Economics.
In 2012, Forrester was named State Legislator of the Year by the NH Association of Counties and also was honored with the Legislative Leadership Award from the NH Health Care Association.
Previously, she served as an interim town administrator in Tuftonboro and New Durham and prior to running for the state senate, she was executive director of the Main Street programs in both Plymouth and Meredith.
“I went into this thinking maybe once or twice,” Forrester said of her serving in the state Senate, but things changed quickly, beginning with Northern Pass, an electricity transmission project that would bring hydroelectricity from Canada into New Hampshire and then into the New England power grid.
Supporters of Northern Pass say the $1.4 billion project will create jobs while ensuring the stability of the regional power supply. Opponents, however, are concerned that the transmission lines will scar New Hampshire’s rural appeal and have a deleterious effect on the value of private property along the transmission route.
While exploring Northern Pass, as well as several wind-turbine farms proposed in the Newfound Region, Forrester found that the State of New Hampshire has some deficiencies in how it regulates such efforts.
Along with other lawmakers, Forrester sought to impose a moratorium on “elective” energy projects – those that are proposed to address future, not current energy needs – until the state developed a comprehensive energy plan. She also helped introduce a bill that would have required public approval before the NH Site Evaluation Committee issued a certificate for new energy projects to proceed.
Both bills, however, were deemed “inexpedient to legislate,” although their subject matter continues to be studied and discussed.
Forrester said everything must start with a statewide energy plan and the plan must include a declaration of intent.
“I want us to be intentional about what we want as a state,” said Forrester, and if the state intentionally wants to have a negative impact on private property, then it should say so directly and clearly in the energy plan.
“I’m very proud that right out of the gate,” Forrester said, that as a newly-elected state senator in 2011, she worked to affirm private property rights by opposing the use of eminent domain for the acquisition of land needed for Northern Pass.
In the current 2013-2014 legislative session, Forrester said she was proud that the House and Senate passed a balanced budget although doing so involved some tough choices.
If elected to a third term, Forrester said she’d continue to work on keeping the budget balanced, on increasing governmental transparency, and on rebuilding the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”
“At one point, we had $90 million in the fund,” said Forrester, noting that State Treasurer Catherine Provencher recently told her and fellow lawmakers that the fund was down to where it could cover the operation of the state for a mere “2 point 2 days.”
Although the issue will probably be decided before, and if, she is reelected, Forrester said she is not in favor of raising the state gasoline tax by four cents per gallon “because it’s not even a Band-Aid.”
While recognizing that the state Department of Transportation desperately needs money to make repairs to roads and bridges, Forrester pointed out that a 20-cents-per gallon increase in the gas tax would be needed.
She and State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, have introduced a bill that would prohibit allocation of highway funds to other purposes and also establish a committee to “study methods of maintaining highway fund integrity.”
Forrester acknowledged that “there’s a lot of hard work” to do in the current legislative session and also in 2015-2016.
“I wasn’t thinking I’d go past a first term,” she said, but now she’s looking to a possible third.
“I care about this state, I care about my constituents,” said Forrester, adding that the favorite part of her job is visiting the communities that make up Senate District 2 and helping solve problems.
Forrester said she models her conduct on that of Ray Burton, the long-time District 1 Executive Councilor who passed away last year from cancer.
Calling Burton her “mentor,” Forrester said “every day I do work, I think of him. He was a master when it came to constituent service.”
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