The public interacts with administrative agencies every day when they apply for a driver’s license, file their taxes, send their children to public school, or apply for a business or professional license. Administrative agencies became increasingly popular in the twentieth century to deal with social and economic problems. Administrative agencies have three main tools to deal with these problems: they can create rules, investigate violations of those rules, and make decisions through administrative hearings.
Administrative hearings units work much like the courts that handle civil cases, but there are some major differences. Administrative hearings units often have relaxed rules of procedure regulating how a case moves forward and are heard. This makes it easier for individuals, often not represented by attorneys, to present their case. Historically, in Illinois, administrative courts are also limited in what types of cases they decide. For example, the Department of Revenue may handle a case about taxes, but do not handle cases about whether a physician holds adequate qualifications for licensure. Because of these limitations, litigants before the State’s various administrative courts can have very different experiences while facing different procedural requirements. While one set of litigants can have resolution within months, others may wait for years. Without a centralized structure, the State was not poised to address these disparities.
The idea of a centralized venue for administrative hearings in the State of Illinois has been in the making since 1999 when the first bill creating a centralized administrative hearing panel was presented to the General Assembly. Since then, seven bills were presented and each failed to become law.
Thankfully for the citizens of Illinois, on April 29, 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed Executive Order No. 06 (2016) creating the Bureau of Administrative Hearings to eliminate the backlog and delay in state administrative proceedings. The mission was to initiate a pilot program through which the State provided central, uniform administrative support to a limited number of State agencies and to determine whether further consolidation should be considered through a subsequent Executive Order or legislation.
In 2016, the same year the Bureau was created, over 25 Illinois state agencies conducted their own administrative hearings, there were over 100 types of hearings held and over 100,000 hearing requests received. Some of these state agency hearings were backlogged and took in excess of two years to complete.
In the first 6 months since its creation, the Bureau invited the Illinois Department of Revenue, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Department of Labor to participate. This resulted in over 100 hearings having been completed thanks to the dedicated work of Administrative Law Judges who were cross-trained and given program support. Later, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and the Illinois State Police also joined forces to meet an existing State need. Beginning in December 2016, IDFPR ALJs will hear certain kinds of cases for the ISP. These successes were accomplished at no cost to taxpayers by entering into an interagency contracts with each participating State agency, as authorized by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act and other applicable laws.
The Bureau will continue to focus on providing excellent customer service and public trust, enabling more efficient administrative procedures, reducing backlog of cases, and taking any cost savings or cost avoidance measures.