The final decision-maker depends on the law governing the hearing. In some cases, the ALJ is the final decision-maker. In others, the head of the agency or a governing board may make the final decision.
Once the hearing is completed, the ALJ is responsible for preparing a Proposed or a Final Decision which sets out all the facts of the case, recites the law that governs the case, and applies the law to the facts. The most important questions to be answered are who has won on each disagreement and what the final outcome should be. Any proposed or final decision must be in writing.
When the ALJ issues a proposed decision, it will be sent to all parties. They will be notified of a time in which to file written objections which will be considered by the final decision-maker. The final decision can be changed from the proposed decision, based upon the decision-maker's independent review of the evidence and the parties' objections.