Forrester named chair of powerful N.H. Senate Finance Committee

CONCORD — State Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) was picked to chair the Senate Finance Committee by newly elected Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) yesterday.

Forrester, who is midway through her second term in the Senate, was the lone freshman senator to serve on the committee following her election in 2010 and was appointed vice-chairman after her re-election in 2012.

"I am very pleased by the confidence Senator Morse placed in me to head the Finance Committee," Forrester said yesterday.

Senator Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester) was named vice-chairman. Forrester said that she and D'Allesandro worked well together throughout the budget process earlier this year and anticipated their successful relationship would continue.

In a prepared statement, Morse said that he had worked closely with both senators during the last two budget cycles. "I have complete confidence in their understanding of the intricacies of the budget, as well as their ability to oversee the implementation of this fiscal spending plan going forward," he said.

Morse recalled that the Legislature worked across party lines to prepare and adopt the 2014-2015 budget. "I know Senators Forrester and D'Allesandro will work well with Governor Hassan and our executive branch agencies to ensure our spending targets are met." Managing the state budget, he continued, provided the foundation for a sound economy.

Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, immediately charged that by appointing Forrester, Morse began his presidency by "starting down the same ethically questionable road that ended Peter Bragdon's."

Earlier Kirstein charged charged that Bragdon, who resigned the Senate presidency to become executive director of the Local Government Center (LGC), appointed Forrester to a committee studying the LGC and the statute governing the management of insurance risk pools, knowing that was in line for the job, which pays $180,000. Claiming the appointment to the study committee breached the Ethics Guidelines of the General Court, Kirstein alleges that Forrester lied when she denied she was not aware of Bragdon's interest in the position when she accepted the committee assignment.

Yesterday Kirstein issued a statement insinuating that Forrester's appointment to chair the Finance Committee was a reward for her part in helping Bragdon secure the job.

Bragdon has insisted that he decided to name Forrester to the study committee on July 5, when the bill creating it crossed his desk for his signature and almost a week before his initial conversation with the LGC on July 11. Later on July 16, documents record a conversation in which Bragdon told Forrester of his interest in the position. She encouraged him and offered to provide a reference.