Sen. Jan Faiks of Anchorage, the first woman in U.S. history elected as presiding officer of a state legislative body, has died.
Faiks was Alaska Senate President in 1987-1988. She died April 10, 2017 after being diagnosed with brain cancer last year. The 71-year-old former lawmaker was living in Amelia Island, Fla. with her husband, former Alaska State Sen. Lloyd Jones, at the time of her passing.
The Constitutional Budget Reserve that the Alaska Legislature is depending on today to meet State spending during a period of lower oil revenues, owes its existence to her and a handful of other legislators who sponsored it in 1988. Faiks had actually introduced the legislation a session earlier, but it took a second try to get it through.
ELECTED IN 1982
Gov. Bill Walker ordered all Alaska flags lowered today and Thursday in Faiks’ honor.
Born in Long Island, New York in 1945, Faiks graduated from Florida State University with a math degree and was a teacher, cheerleading coach, and counselor for the Anchorage School District from 1968 to 1978. She was named the district’s Outstanding Secondary Teacher in 1977. She was elected in 1982 to the Alaska State Senate.
Cheryl Frasca of Anchorage, who was working for Rep. Al Adams of Kotzebue as a legislative aide on the Finance Committee, remembers why Faiks ran for office — Sen. Bill Ray of Juneau goaded her into it.
“She was involved in what was known as the Anchorage Women’s Club Free Committee, which was a committee that was working on recommendations for revising the uniform rules for how the Legislature did its business,” Frasca said. Members of the group included her good friend, Jan Bomhoff.
The changes the women wanted were procedures like how the conference committee on the operating budget would function. It had been a free-for-all, with legislators free to put anything into the budget during conference committee. The women also wanted notice of committee meetings to be published a week in advance. At the time, committees met with little notice.
“She and some members of the group went to Juneau to talk to legislators about the changes they proposed, and she met with Sen. Ray. He said something to the effect of, ‘If you think you’re so smart, why don’t you just run?’ So she did.”
Faiks served in the Alaska Senate from 1983 through 1990, and was also a businesswoman during her career as well as the proprietor of her own llama farm. She was a founder of the Alaska Zoo.
She was on the board of directors and chaired the legislative action committee for the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, was president of the Anchorage Symphony, and was a member of World Affairs Council and many other organizations that continue to be part of Alaska civic life today.
“Jan was classy,” Frasca remembers. “She dressed gorgeously and decorated her legislative office with her own money. She really ratcheted up the professionalism during her freshman year, when she was Senate Rules chair.
Faiks also chaired the Finance and Judiciary committees before becoming president.
ORIGINAL CBR HAD APPROPRIATION LIMITS
As originally introduced, the Constitutional Budget Reserve had an appropriation limit built into it. The original legislation (SJR 40 in 1987) did several other significant things: It provided for distribution of the Permanent Fund earnings, with 40 percent to dividends; 30 percent back into the Permanent Fund; and 30 percent to a Constitutional Budget Reserve. The proposed appropriation limit was designed so that revenue that exceeded the limit would go into the reserve fund.
That bill had 13 co-sponsors — both Democrats and Republicans — including Rick Halford, Joe Josephson, Fred Zharoff, John Binkley, Mitch Abood, Willie Hensley, Jack Coghill, Bettye Fahrenkamp, Rick Uehling, Jim Duncan, Vic Fischer, and Lloyd Jones.
By 1989, however, it was pared down, and what came out of the final legislation, SJR 5, was the Constitutional Budget Reserve we know today.
“Just imagine how different the discussion would be today if this had been addressed nearly 30 years ago,” said Frasca, who noted that Sen. Faiks was not only great with numbers and llamas, but she was thinking far into the future for Alaska.
After serving two four-year terms, Faiks earned her law degree at Georgetown University School of Law in Washington, D.C. and began practicing in Maryland and the District of Columbia. According to an obituary written by Dean Fosdick, former Associated Press bureau chief for Alaska (and friend of Faiks), she also spent seven years as a congressional staffer and investigative counsel assigned to such high-profile projects as updating voting procedures following the George W. Bush vs. Al Gore presidential election.
Faiks served briefly as Assistant Secretary of Mine Safety and Health Administration with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, and was a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association until her retirement in 2013.
Faiks is survived by her husband Lloyd Jones and his three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Survivors also include a sister, Nance Jo Ogozalek of Tennessee, and an uncle, Dr. Stan Carson, of Huntington Beach, Calif.