On February 17, 2023, Representative Kelly Armstrong from North Dakota introduced a new bill in the United States Congress, known as HR 1059, the Secure Notarization Act. This bill aims to amend the requirements for notary publics at a federal level. The bill’s key provisions include authorizing electronic and remote notarizations, establishing minimum standards for these types of notarizations, requiring federal courts to recognize notarizations performed by notarial officers of any state, and requiring states to recognize notarizations performed by notarial officers of other states under certain circumstances.
What are the Provisions of HR 1059?
- Authorizing electronic and remote notarizations – One of the most significant changes that HR 1059 would make is to authorize notaries public to perform electronic and remote notarizations that occur in or affect interstate commerce. Electronic notarizations involve the use of electronic signatures and digital documents, while remote notarizations are conducted via video conference. By authorizing these types of notarizations, HR 1059 would expand the options available to clients and make the process more convenient and accessible.
- Establishing minimum standards for electronic and remote notarizations – In addition to authorizing electronic and remote notarizations, HR 1059 would establish minimum standards for these types of notarizations. This would include requirements for identity verification and record keeping, among other things. By establishing these standards, HR 1059 would help to ensure that electronic and remote notarizations are secure, reliable, and consistent across different jurisdictions.
- Requiring federal courts to recognize notarizations performed by notarial officers of any state – Another key provision of HR 1059 is that it would require federal courts to recognize notarizations performed by notarial officers of any state, if the notarization was performed under or relates to a public act, record, or judicial proceeding of the notarial officer’s state or when the notarization occurs in or affects interstate commerce. This provision would help to streamline cross-border transactions and reduce the need for duplicate notarizations.
- Requiring states to recognize notarizations performed by notarial officers of other states – Finally, HR 1059 would require states to recognize notarizations performed by notarial officers of other states under certain circumstances. This would include situations where the notarization was performed under or relates to a public act, record, or judicial proceeding of the notarial officer’s state or when the notarization occurs in or affects interstate commerce. This provision would also help to reduce the need for duplicate notarizations and facilitate cross-border transactions.
Disadvantages of HR 1059
- Privacy and security concerns – One of the primary concerns with electronic and remote notarization is the potential for privacy and security breaches. Electronic documents and signatures can be vulnerable to hacking and other types of cyber threats, which could compromise the integrity of the notarization process. Additionally, remote notarization via video conference may not always provide adequate identity verification measures, which could increase the risk of fraud.
- Uneven implementation and enforcement – Another concern is that HR 1059 would establish minimum standards for electronic and remote notarizations, but it may be difficult to enforce these standards consistently across different states and jurisdictions. This could lead to uneven implementation and enforcement, which could undermine the integrity of the notarization process and create confusion for clients.
- Increased cost for notaries – While electronic and remote notarization can offer greater convenience and accessibility for clients, they may also require additional technology and training for public notaries. This could result in increased costs for notaries, which could be passed on to clients through higher fees.
- Lack of universal acceptance – Finally, there is a concern that not all states and jurisdictions may be willing to recognize electronic and remote notarizations, which could limit their usefulness for clients. While HR 1059 would require states to recognize notarizations performed by notarial officers of other states under certain circumstances, there may still be inconsistencies and variations in how different jurisdictions approach this issue.
Advantages of HR 1059
- Increased convenience and accessibility for clients – Electronic and remote notarization can provide greater convenience and accessibility for clients who may have difficulty traveling to a notary public office or finding a notary public who can accommodate their schedule. With electronic notarization, clients can sign and notarize documents from anywhere with an internet connection, while remote notarization allows clients to complete the process via video conference.
- Greater efficiency and speed – Electronic and remote notarization can also streamline the notarization process and reduce the time and effort required to complete it. This can be particularly beneficial for businesses and organizations that need to process large volumes of documents or operate across multiple locations.
- Improved accuracy and record-keeping – Electronic notarization can help to improve the accuracy and reliability of notarized documents by reducing the risk of errors or mistakes during the notarization process. Electronic documents can also be easily stored and retrieved, which can help to facilitate record-keeping and compliance with legal requirements.
- Reduced costs – Electronic and remote notarization can also help to reduce the costs associated with traditional notarization services, such as travel expenses and notary fees. This can make notarization more accessible and affordable for a wider range of clients.
- Increased standardization and consistency – By establishing minimum standards for electronic and remote notarization, HR 1059 can help to increase standardization and consistency across different states and jurisdictions. This can help to reduce confusion and ensure that notarized documents are recognized and accepted by courts and other authorities in different locations.
The decision of whether to establish notarization rules at the federal or state level will depend on a variety of factors, including legal considerations, policy goals, and practical concerns. Some may argue that a federal approach is necessary to ensure consistency and security across all states. In contrast, others may argue that state-level regulation is more effective in responding to local needs and circumstances.
Overall, notaries in Georgia need to be aware of the implications of HR 1059. This bill passed in the House on February 27, 2023, and goes to the Senate next for consideration. This bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law. Staying informed about current laws and regulations related to one’s profession should always be a priority. With proper knowledge and understanding of the latest developments, notaries can confidently fulfill their duties while protecting themselves from potential liabilities.
What are your thoughts on HR 1059?