Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/19/2004 08:05 AM Senate JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 302-OATHS; NOTARIES PUBLIC; STATE SEAL CHAIR SEEKINS informed members that version I was before the committee. SENATOR THERRIAULT moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute, version I, as the working document before the committee. There being no objection, the motion carried. MR. SCOTT CLARK, Notary Administrator for Lt. Governor Loren Leman, provided members with a chart comparing the current notary statute with the proposed changes. CHAIR SEEKINS pointed out the current statute has not been updated since 1961. MR. CLARK highlighted the following changes that SB 302 will make to the current statute: · The current age requirement of 19 years would be lowered to 18 years. · The separate definition of residency in the notary statute would be replaced with a reference to AS 01.10.055 [the generic definition of residency]. · Applicants will have to legally reside in the United States, which is a requirement of the National Rotary Association's model act. · Applicants cannot be convicted/incarcerated felons within 10 years of application. · The state employee notary term will run for 4 years unless the employee terminates employment with the state, in which case the commission is automatically revoked. · The state employee notary system will be expanded to include federal and municipal employees. · The certificate fees will increase from $2 to $5. · Commission revocation is currently addressed via the Administrative Procedures Act. That will be changed to allow the Lt. Governor to institute a system for common sense discipline. Notaries would have a right to appeal under the Administrative Procedures Act. · Notary data currently includes each notary's name, mailing address, surety information and commission dates. In addition, e-mail addresses will be obtained but will not be made available to the public. MR. CLARK explained that obtaining e-mail addresses will facilitate Internet training and services. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if anyone has ever executed on the $1,000 notary bond. MR. CLARK said not during the four years he has been in his position. He then pointed out that a number of states do not require any notary bonds. Some people theorize that the $1,000 bond is too small to make a claim on. However, he has never received any complaints about the bond being too small. CHAIR SEEKINS said he was not suggesting the bond is too small. His concern is that those bonds are not available in many places. MR. CLARK said the Lt. Governor's Office accepts individual surety, which a number of people take advantage of. A person is not forced to purchase a notary bond, although the cost is about $50. CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. Clark if he is aware of any complaints filed against notaries for misusing their authorities. MR. CLARK indicated that he has received complaints from phone callers but, under the current statute, the Lt. Governor has no disciplinary authority. He said if the complaint is not of a serious nature, he contacts the notary and explains the error. If the complaint is of a serious nature, he must notify the complainant of the administrative hearing procedure. He does not believe anyone has followed through with that process because it is so cumbersome. CHAIR SEEKINS stated: I guess maybe that's the only question I had - why do we continue to charge a notary bond fee or have a notary bond requirement? I'm not aware of, and you're not in four years aware of anybody ever executing on one. It's another piece of paper that everybody has to keep track of. The complaint procedure has no teeth in it, as you said, unless you go to an administrative hearing, which is going to cost whoever is complaining a lot of money. I guess I'm wondering what deterrent there is and why we wouldn't vote for simplicity rather than something with no deterrent.... MS. ANNETTE KREITZER, Chief of Staff, Office of the Lt. Governor, told members these issues were discussed with everyone who employs notaries and notaries themselves. She explained: ...The notary bonds - there just wasn't a great swell of concern about people saying, as you are, it's just one more piece of paper, it's bureaucracy, why do we have to do this. We just hadn't heard that sentiment to those we vetted this to. So that's what we relied on to guide us in the crafting of the bill - was what are the notaries saying, what are the banks saying that we gave this to. And we, for instance, suggested extending the term of the notaries from four years to six years but the banks didn't like that because notaries last in the banks maybe two years, two and one-half years, so for them it wasn't a good deal to extend the term. We thought we were going to be helpful but we found out that wasn't helpful. So we did get lots of interaction on some of these ideas so that's why we don't have that proposal before you to do away with the bond. CHAIR SEEKINS said most of his employees who are notaries stay longer than two years. He repeated that he sees the bond as an unnecessary step that is never executed on that only requires more tracking. MS. KREITZER said she believes it is healthy to question the usual practices, which she did when she moved to the Lt. Governor's Office. Her opinion of the bond is that it makes people think twice when signing up to be a notary and recognize that their actions have consequences. CHAIR SEEKINS commented that he does not like legislation that contains no teeth. SENATOR FRENCH asked how many complaints the Lt. Governor's Office receives each year about abuses of the notary seal. MR. CLARK estimated that he receives about six complaints each year about technical errors; most problems are of that nature. He noted that most complainants do not identify themselves and discuss a situation with him informally. CHAIR SEEKINS asked the number of notaries in the state. MR. CLARK replied about 12,100 right now and that figure is consistent. CHAIR SEEKINS announced that with no further participants, public testimony was closed. SENATOR OGAN asked why SB 302 contains additional definitions and so many new sections. MS. KREITZER explained that much of the bill deals with judges, magistrates and postmasters. As the Lieutenant Governor's Office reviewed the statutory provisions that touched on oaths and affirmations, they decided to wrap the corrections to any inconsistencies they found into SB 302. She pointed out, for example, that in the current statute, the Lieutenant Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker cannot sign off on oaths of office. CHAIR SEEKINS said he saw no reason to hold this bill in committee. SENATOR OGAN moved CSSB 302(JUD) from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. CHAIR SEEKINS announced without objection, the motion carried.