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Tom Feran
By Tom Feran January 18, 2013

William Batchelder says his service career ranks No. 2 for longevity in the Ohio House

State Rep. William G. Batchelder was re-elected speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives when the General Assembly met for the first time Jan. 7. The Medina Republican reviewed the work of the previous two-year assembly in traditional opening remarks, and he also mentioned an achievement of his own:

"It has been my privilege to serve in the Ohio House of Representatives for more than 35 years," he said, "and I understand that I am now the No. 2 member of this House in terms of length of service."

It's a noteworthy distinction, but it brought a question to PolitiFact Ohio: if Batchelder's claim is true, how is it possible in a state with term limits?

We dug into the record.

First, Batchelder was correct. He was elected to the House in 1968, starting his first term in 1969, and served until 1999. Elected again in 2006, he was re-elected to his fourth consecutive two-year term last November -- making him the most senior member of the House and giving him its second-longest tenure in state history.

The longest-serving member was Robert Netzley, a Republican from southwest Ohio who died in 2010. He served 40 years until retiring in 2000, when he was term-limited. The longest serving member of the Senate was Ted Gray, who served a total of 43 years and retired in 1994.

Ohio's term limits were approved by voters through a constitutional amendment in 1992 and became effective in 2000.

They limit House members to four two-year terms, an eight-year cap, and state senators to two four-year terms, also eight years.

There is no lifetime limit on terms. The cap is on consecutive terms, and the clock is reset when a member leaves the House or Senate. Nor is there a restriction or waiting period on jumping from one chamber to the other.

An analysis by the Toledo Blade last July found that 18 active members of the total 132 in the General Assembly had served more than eight uninterrupted years in Columbus by making at least one jump between chambers.

Rep. Ron Amstutz of Wooster, a budget expert who was named as the lawmaker with the longest consecutive service in the term limits era, has been in office for 32 years. He first ran successfully for the House in 1980.

Batchelder, who left the House for a judgeship in 1999, now has served for more than 35 years. He has never served in the Senate. Term limits will prevent him from seeking another House term in 2014.

And on the Truth-O-Meter, his claim about ranking No. 2 for length of service in the Ohio House rates as True.

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