• July 21, 2014

TEXAS STATE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING UNDERGOES THE SUNSET REVIEW PROCESS

TEXAS STATE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING UNDERGOES THE SUNSET REVIEW PROCESS

150 150 Elect Todd Hunter

TEXAS STATE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING UNDERGOES THE SUNSET REVIEW PROCESS

Over the past few weeks, I have written about a number of state agencies that are undergoing the sunset review process. As a reminder, this is the process in which the state has to identify and eliminate government waste, duplication and general inefficiencies in state agencies. The Texas Legislature established the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission in 1977. The sunset review process is designed to review each of the state agencies every twelve years. This review is done by taking up a certain number of the state agencies each time the Texas Legislature convenes. In this week’s article, we are going to review the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings.

The Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) is an agency within the executive branch that operates as an independent state agency. It serves as an agency that is tasked with conducting efficient, fair, and prompt administrative hearings along with alternative dispute resolution proceedings. Overall, SOAH is responsible for referrals from more than fifty state agencies as well as other governmental and quasi-governmental entities. It is their objective as an agency to conduct fair and timely decisions that are placed before them. To achieve this mission, the agency has a team of Administrative Law Judges committed to due process and focused on an impartial review of the cases before them. These judges preside over a variety of contested case hearings and work to come to a logical and pragmatic resolution. In some cases, SOAH is able to mediate the appropriate cases to resolve them without having a hearing, which results in a quicker resolution and less expense for litigation.

The referral process at SOAH is divided into a total of seven different teams dealing with the agency, as well as its subject matter. The teams are broken down into the Alternative Dispute Resolution, Administrative License Revocation and Field Enforcement, Licensing, Economic, Utilities and Tax. The Administrative Law Judges will generally serve on several of the teams depending on the variety of the types of cases before the agency. As an example, the Texas Office of Administrative Hearings can cover a wide range of subjects from professional and vocational licensing and regulations, teacher and state employee benefits, child abuse and neglect, child support enforcement, workers compensation healthcare provider reimbursement, financial and utility regulation, environmental and natural resources, and the payment of taxes owed to the state or counties.

The Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings is run by the Chief Administrative Law Judge who is appointed by the governor and must be confirmed by the Texas Senate for a two-year term. SOAH is headquartered in Austin, Texas but also has a number of additional field offices that are located in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, El Paso, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Lubbock. Due to the size of our state, the agency has a total of thirty-one other remote sites where SOAH can hold hearings. The agency is also able to conduct certain hearings and take public testimony by telephone. Depending on the situation, SOAH may do mass hearings in cases where it is more appropriate to do so, to try and make the process more efficient.

If you are interested in learning more visit the Texas Office of Administrative Hearings

Some of the other agencies we will review in the upcoming weeks include the Texas Education Agency, Texas Facilities Commission, Texas Workforce Commission, University Interscholastic League, as well as a number of other agencies. If you would like to learn more visit the Sunset Advisory Commission.

If you have any questions regarding the Texas Office of Administrative Hearings or the sunset review process, please don’t hesitate to contact either my Capitol or District office. My offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces (Part) County. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 512-463-0672.