PHOENIX -- Jane Dee Hull, whose tenure as the first elected woman governor led to major and still-existing changes in Arizona government, died Thursday, with husband, Terry, dying within hours.
Former Gov. Jan Brewer, who served with her in the Arizona Legislature, said both died of natural causes.
Hull, 84, had a political career that stretched close to 26 years, starting with her election to the state House of Representatives as a Republican. She eventually became speaker, presiding over the chamber during the 1991 AzScam scandal where several lawmakers were accused of taking bribes in exchange for votes on legalized gaming.
Hull stripped the five House members of their committee assignments and demanded they resign. She also told the three who did not quit immediately to stay off the House floor.
But it was her elevation to governor from secretary of state in 1997, after Fife Symington was forced to quit following a criminal conviction of fraud, that created a legacy that has lasted until this day.
She ushered in casino gaming, negotiating a deal with Native tribes to give them exclusive rights to operate slot machines and similar devices in exchange for the state getting a share of the profits. That deal helped convince voters in 2002 to defeat two other competing measures, one of which would have allowed gaming at racetracks.
Hull also made history of sorts when she became the first Arizona governor to appoint someone from other than her own party to the state Supreme Court.
And she even agreed, over the objection of social conservatives, to sign legislation repealing what she called "antiquated sex laws'' that had made sodomy, oral sex and cohabitation illegal.
"I choose not to judge the conduct of others, even when I know others will judge me for signing this bill,'' she said.
But Hull was actually less interested in the first two provisions than the last. She said that ban on cohabitation made it impossible to bring domestic violence charges in cases where people were only living together.
It was her support of issues relating to children, however, that may have had the most long-lasting impact.
First, Hull took advantage of a provision in federal law to enroll Arizona in the KidsCare program. It provides subsidized health insurance to the children of the working poor, those who earn too much for the state's Medicaid program but not enough to afford their own premiums.
The sweetener for Hull was that the federal government provided $3 for every dollar of state funds. And the state's share came out of a 40-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes.
Kids Care remains a state program, with close to 38,000 enrolled.
Second was her engineering of getting voters to approve a plan requiring that state aid to schools be increased every year to match inflation and student growth. That was financed by a 0.6-cent sales tax for 20 years; lawmakers more recently voted to extend that.
That provision requiring annual inflation adjustments enabled educators years later to successfully challenge moves by the Republican-controlled Legislature to curtail K-12 funding.
Her programs and positions as governor at one point launched a conservative movement to deny her a full term of her own in 1998. But that fizzled when Matt Salmon refused to challenge her in the primary and Hull coasted to an easy victory in the general election against former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson.
One footnote to that race is it was the first time the Arizona Daily Star ever had endorsed a Republican for governor, a move that generated national publicity.
What also got national attention was that the 1998 election created what became known as the ``Fab Five,'' as it put the top five state elected officials all in the hands of women: Hull as governor, Betsey Bayless as secretary of state, Janet Napolitano as attorney general, Carol Springer as treasurer and Lisa Graham Keegan as school superintendent.
As governor, Hull picked some fights with the more conservative members of her own party.
In 2000 she withdrew the endorsement she had given to the reelection bid of state Rep. Barbara Blewster. That came after the Dewey Republican made various comments about gays, Indians, blacks and Jews.
"This candidate does not support the issues close to my heart, specifically education, diversity and respect for human dignity," Hull said in a prepared statement after a face-to-face meeting with Blewster.
She also did something of an about-face on the issue of abortion.
During the 1998 election campaign she acknowledged that she was one of a dozen lawmakers who signed onto the anti-abortion measures in 1986 and 1987. But Hull told Capitol Media Services in 1998 she would no longer support such proposals, even though she said she is personally opposed to abortion.
What changed, she said, is that she was no longer just a rank-and-file state lawmaker representing a single north-central Phoenix legislative district.
"I was of the Republican mind that, frankly, went along'' with the stance of many party members to outlaw abortion, she said.
But as governor Hull said she was representing the entire state. And, she said, the state has changed.
Also on the social front, Hull quietly reaffirmed the state's "don't ask, don't tell'' policy of placing children for foster care and adoption in the homes of gay couples, rejecting arguments by some GOP lawmakers that the Department of Economic Security should be forced to stop the practice. Fights with conservatives aside on policy issues, she also had a sometimes tumultuous relationship with Sen. John McCain, telling reporters that when he called to complain -- and yell -- about something she would have to hold the receiver far from her ear. It probably didn't help that in 2000, when McCain first expressed presidential aspirations, the Arizona governor endorsed George W. Bush over the home-state senator.
She, did, however, back McCain's 2008 presidential bid.
But Hull also had a temper of her own, commenting in 1998 about "cracking heads'' of recalcitrant Republicans who would not support a school finance plan.
She gained headlines by suggesting at one point that the air conditioning be turned off in state prisons.
And Hull generated publicity by insisting that it is a "security issue'' that she used an airplane owned by the Department of Public Safety more than 100 times to shuttle her to the cabin she and husband Terry owned in Pinetop. That generated the moniker "Plane Jane.''
Hull also got some publicity after she signed legislation crafted by House Speaker Jeff Groscost to create lucrative tax credits for those who purchased vehicles powered by alternate fuels.
But Hull then led the move to roll back the credits after what was supposed to have a $10 million price tag threatened to blow a half billion-dollar hole in the state budget. That process, completed under successor Janet Napolitano, still left the state with a $200 million bill.
Among bills Hull signed as governor were:
- creating the state's first "road rage'' law, making "aggressive driving'' a crime;
- requiring insurance companies that provide diabetes coverage to pay for necessary supplies like glood glucose monitors, test strips, insulin cartridges and syringes;
- increasing the maximum unemployment benefit by $20 a week, to $205, the first increase since 1992; the cap now stands at $240;
- allocating in 2001 $45 million for the following three years to improve programs for students with limited English speaking skills.
On the other side of the ledger, Hull's vetoes include:
- legislation that would have made it illegal for youngsters to ride in the back of pickup trucks in urban areas, saying while she is "an advocate for children'' she doesn't believe it's right for government to make these kinds of acts a crime;
- legalizing sparklers; it took nearly a decade until Gov. Jan Brewer signed a similar bill.
Born in 1935 in Missouri, she grew up in Kansas, graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in education.
She worked as an elementary school teacher while Terry was in medical school.
They moved to Arizona in 1962 where he worked on the Navajo Reservation and she taught English while raising their four children. Two years later the family moved to Phoenix, with Hull getting involved with Republican issues and candidates.
She left office at the end of 2003 after it was determined that, despite having only a partial first term, seeking reelection would violate state constitutional provisions limiting officials to two terms.
In 2004 she was briefly a public delegate from the United States to the United Nations General Assembly.