Rep. Jeff Leach

Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano), chair of the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee, today introduced legislation to give the chief administrative law judge at SOAH emergency powers to suspend rules and proceedings in administrative hearings during a declared disaster. This authority mirrors that of the Texas Supreme Court. The bill also authorizes any SOAH proceeding, whether or not during an emergency, to be conducted by videoconference.

HB 2580 amends Chapter 2003, Government Code (Texas Administrative Procedures Act), as follows:

  • Adds §2003.0401 to direct the chief administrative law judge to appoint a deputy to act in the event the chief judge is absent or unable to act, to supervise the ALJs (including senior or master ALJs), and to perform other services as directed by the chief ALJ; the deputy serves at the pleasure of the chief ALJ; makes conforming changes throughout the statute to reflect addition of a deputy chief ALJ;
  • Adds §2003.0501 to authorize the chief ALJ to modify or suspend a procedure governing an administrative hearing or alternative dispute resolution procedure affected by a disaster during the period the governor’s disaster declaration is in effect; limits the emergency order to 30 days, unless renewed; requires the order to conform as nearly as practicable to a SCOTX emergency order;
  • Adds §§2003.0551 and 2003.0552 to authorize an ALJ to conduct a proceeding by videoconference and to authorize the State Office of Administrative Hearings to deliver decisions or orders by electronic means;
  • Repeals §2003.021(c) and (d) to eliminate the requirement that SOAH conduct workers’ compensation hearings under Title 5, Labor Code, and hearings under the Agriculture Code;
  • Repeals §2003.024(a-2), which directs SOAH, if operating under an interagency agreement for quarterly payments, to track hours and estimate future hours for the fiscal year;
  • Repeals §2003.050(c), which requires SOAH rules to provide for certifying the identity of a witness appearing by telephone;
  • Repeals §2003.108, which requires SOAH to conduct quarterly review of the status of tax cases with the Comptroller;
  • Repeals §40.004, Insurance Code, which requires the insurance commissioner and SOAH to execute an MOU governing SOAH hearings under the Insurance Code; and
  • Adds §411.1411, Government Code, to authorize SOAH to obtain criminal history information from DPS for SOAH employees, applicants, contractors, subcontractors, volunteers, interns, consultants, or contract employees.

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