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Former Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder dies at 79

 Former Speaker Bill Batchelder poses with his official Statehouse portrait in May 2015.
Statehouse News Bureau
Former Speaker Bill Batchelder poses with his official Statehouse portrait in May 2015.

Former Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder - known for his stories, his humor, his distinctive glasses and decades of service in the chamber - has died at 79.

Batchelder was also a judge on the Medina County Court of Common Pleas and the Ninth District Court of Appeals.

Batchelder was first elected to the House in 1968. He served until 1998, when he was forced out by term limits. He returned in 2007, became speaker in 2011, and left after Republicans won a supermajority of seats in 2014.

The conservative lawmaker was one of the founders of what became known as the "Caveman Caucus", and once wore a dog muzzle on the floor of the House to protest procedure under longtime Democratic Speaker Vern Riffe. He and other Republican lawmakers were photographed mowing the Statehouse lawn after raising concerns about budget cuts under Democratic Gov. John Gilligan in 1971.

He played what was considered a critical role in dealing with the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s. And he fought fellow Republican John Kasich when he was governor, pushing back on his plans to expand Medicaid after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But he eventually put Rep. Ross McGregor on the Controlling Board, who was the final vote for Medicaid expansion, saying the GOP caucus supported the move.

Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement: “Ohioans are grateful for his decades of service. Bill was a consummate legislator who helped me as we passed a drunk driving bill in 1982 for which I will always be grateful. I have sought his advice many times over the years. He was a Ronald Reagan Republican – a classic conservative whose guiding principle was freedom."

His last interview with the Statehouse News Bureau was in May 2018. Jo Ingles spotted him walking the halls in his familiar blue seersucker suit after a ceremony inducting him into the Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.

At the time, a fierce battle was going on over who would become the new speaker following the resignation of Cliff Rosenberger (R-Wilmington), with forces lining up behind Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and Larry Householder (R-Glenford). A month later, Smith ended up winning in a three-hour session with 11 rounds of voting.

“The House is my home and this is difficult," Batchelder said at the time.

Batchelder is survived by his wife U.S. Sixth Circuit Court Alice Batchelder, two children and eight grandchildren.

 Former House Speaker Bill Batchelder and his wife, US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge Alice Batchelder, after his induction into Ohio's Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in May 2018.
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Former House Speaker Bill Batchelder and his wife, US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge Alice Batchelder, after his induction into Ohio's Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in May 2018.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.