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History and Background

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 is intended to make 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 for decades. Just since 1999, eight bills, sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, have been presented in the General Assembly; 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 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 150,000 hearing requests received. Some of these state agency hearings were backlogged and took in excess of two years to complete.