Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/19/2004 08:05 AM Senate JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
           SB 302-OATHS; NOTARIES PUBLIC; STATE SEAL                                                                        
CHAIR  SEEKINS informed  members that  version I  was before  the                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said he  saw  no  reason  to  hold this  bill  in                                                               
SENATOR OGAN  moved CSSB 302(JUD) from  committee with individual                                                               
recommendations and attached fiscal notes.                                                                                      
CHAIR SEEKINS announced without objection, the motion carried.                                                                  

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