Expanded Notary education, higher fees, journals and webcam notarizations have emerged as key trends among state legislatures this year. So far, 2017 is shaping up to be the most active and substantive legislative session in years. Here’s a look at many of the notable bills currently under consideration.
Notary Education And Fee Bills
Several states are proposing Notary education bills and changes to fee limits. In some states, including Idaho, Indiana and New Jersey, these provisions are part of bills that would adopt the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA). RULONA was developed by the Uniform Law Commission in 2010 to help states update and modernize their notarial laws.
Arkansas: HB 1450 it makes several notable changes to Arkansas’ Notary laws, such as removing limits to the fees Notaries may charge and allowing them to set their own fees; allowing Notaries to refuse to perform certain notarizations; creating rules for notarizing for individuals who must use a signature by mark or are unable to sign a document. HB 1450 was signed into law as Act No. 537 on March 21, and takes effect in early August.
Idaho: HB 209 raises the fees Notaries may charge from $2 to $5; allows Notaries to use RULONA short form certificates for notarizations; and requires the Secretary of State or approved providers to offer training courses for applicants who do not hold Notary commissions. The bill was signed into law on March 27 as Chapter 192. Most of the bill takes effect on July 1, 2017, but certain provisions have a later effective date.
Indiana: SB 539 raises the maximum fee for some notarial acts from $2 to $10; require new applicants to complete an education course and exam; requires existing Notaries to take continuing education courses every two years; raises the required Notary bond (known as an “assurance”) from $5,000 to $25,000; and allows Notaries to charge a reasonable travel fee not to exceed federal travel fee standards. The bill passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s approval.
Texas HB 2254 would require the Secretary of State by rule to adopt a fee schedule for Notary public services that sets fair and reasonable fees and ensures the public’s access to a Notary. The Secretary would be permitted to adjust the fee schedule each calendar year as necessary to reflect inflation.
In addition to these bills, Georgia (HB 120), Kansas (SB 143), Kentucky (HB 218), Michigan (HB 4374), Minnesota (HF 1609 and SF 893), Rhode Island (HB 6110), Texas (SB 665) and Vermont (HB 526) have bills that would in whole or part require Notary education courses for some or all commission applicants.
A second major trend in legislative introductions this year centers around a requirement for Notaries to keep a journal. Georgia (HB 120) would require a journal for eNotarizations only, while Kentucky (HB 218), Michigan (HB 4374), Minnesota (HF 1609 and SF 893), New Jersey (AB 1184 and SB 333), Rhode Island (HB 6110) and Washington (SB 5081) would require a journal for all notarial acts.
Webcam/Remote Notarization Bills
More states are considering bills to allow Notaries to notarize using webcams or other audio-visual communications systems, including the following:
Kentucky: HB 218 would authorize Notaries to perform a remote notarization using audio-video communications technology for signers located outside the United States. It also would require the Notary to retain a video and audio record of the remote notarization. HB 539 would allow the use of audio-video communication for signers located anywhere.
Maryland: SB 747 would authorize Notaries who register with the Secretary of State to perform notarizations electronically and to perform remote notarizations using real time audio-visual communication, provided the signer can be identified by the Notary’s personal knowledge, a valid public key certificate, or by the signer answering security questions and presenting the Notary with a high-resolution image of a valid photo ID.
Minnesota: HF 1609 and SF 893 would authorize webcam notarizations for signers located outside the United States. Like Kentucky’s HB 218, the bill would require the Notary to retain a video and audio record of the remote notarization.
Nebraska: LB 388 would permit remote notarizations, provided that the persons communicating can see and speak to each other in real time in a way that is secure from interception and the technology used complies with regulations adopted by the Secretary of State.
Missouri HB 1118 defines “personally appeared” and “before me” to mean in the same physical location or by two-way video and audio conference communication. Additionally, it would require the Secretary of State to develop standards for two-way live video and audio conferencing communication between a Notary and signer and rules to implement the provisions of the bill.
Nevada AB 413, among many things, renames the Electronic Notary Public Authorization Act as the Remote Notarization Enabling Act and authorizes an electronic Notary to perform authorized notarial acts using audio-video communication.
Oklahoma: HB 1366 would allow Notaries to perform remote notarizations for signers both inside and outside the state. Notaries would be required to record the notarization, inform participants that the communication is being recorded and explain how the signer was identified in the recording. The bill would require the Notary to store the recording for a minimum of five years.
Pennsylvania SB 595 would allow Notaries to perform remote notarizations, and authorize the Department of State, by rule, to determine the means of identifying signers for remote electronic notarizations.
Texas: HB 1217 would allow Notaries who qualify for a special commission to perform electronic notarizations to perform webcam notarizations. It also would permit a signer’s identity to be verified for an online notarization using several options including the Notary’s personal knowledge, a valid digital certificate accessed by biometric data or an identity proofing process that uses standards for identifying federal employees and contractors. Online notarizations can only be used for documents, transactions and signers related to the state of Texas, such as Texas real estate or court documents.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.