Within a 702 page state budget, you should always expect surprises. 

This year’s budget — passed by the Connecticut General Assembly earlier this week on essentially a party-line vote — has a few surprises including a provision that establishes a new independent Office Of Administrative Hearings. 

The OAH will be housed in the Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities for administrative purposes, and will include several agencies, including CHRO, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and Firearms Permit Examiners, according to analysis prepared by the state government.  .

The General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis has provided a brief summary of the provision in it’s "Budget Highlights":

The budget results in a net savings of $629,969 in FY 10 and FY 11 through the creation of the Office of Administrative Hearings within the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. The agencies that will be included in this centralized hearing office are: CHRO (1 position), Department of Children and Families (3 positions), Department of Transportation (2 positions), Department of Motor Vehicles (11 part-time positions paid through a per diem), and the Firearms Permit Examiners (1 position). The annualized funds that are transferred to CHRO for these positions are $1,031,733 in FY 10 and $1,107,879 in FY 11.

So, what are the additional details? Well, there aren’t any. At least that are easy to find in the budget (which you download here).  There is an appropriations line for the CHRO on line 350 or so of the document, but that appears to be it. A search for  "office of administrative hearings" (and some other key terms) reveals no explicit reference to this action in the text of the bill or the legislative analysis.

Currently, there is a detailed administrative scheme at the CHRO where all complaints that have passed a "reasonable cause" standard are sent to human rights referees for a determination on the merits. Indeed, the law called for the appointment of seven human rights referees on three year terms.  So what happens to those provisions?

Answers to this and other questions are unknown right now. But one thing is for certain, we’re likely to see some changes coming soon to the state agency responsible for oversight of the state’s anti-discrimination laws. For employers, stay tuned.