Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/19/2004 03:40 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
           SB 302-OATHS; NOTARIES PUBLIC; STATE SEAL                                                                        
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  announced SB 302 to be  up for consideration.                                                               
He invited Annette Kreitzer to come forward.                                                                                    
ANNETTE  KREITZER, chief  of staff  to Lt.  Governor Leman,  said                                                               
Scott  Clark  was joining  her.  The  reason  for the  bill,  she                                                               
explained,  is  the notary  statutes  have  seen little  updating                                                               
since about 1961. She noted  member's had a sectional analysis, a                                                               
page  of frequently  asked questions,  and a  page comparing  the                                                               
current and proposed notary statute policy issues.                                                                              
Although  she was  happy to  answer any  questions, she  said she                                                               
would just highlight  the sectional analysis. She  noted that she                                                               
and others  in the office  were surprised  to learn that  the lt.                                                               
governor  and  the presiding  officers  of  both bodies  must  be                                                               
notaries to  be able  to administer  the oath  of office  so that                                                               
change is addressed in section 1.                                                                                               
Section 5 increases  the fee for a notary  certificate from $2.00                                                               
to $5.00.  Section 6 relates  to the two categories  of notaries.                                                               
The notary  public without  limitation has a  four year  term and                                                               
may charge fees for service.  The limited governmental notary may                                                               
conduct only official  government business, the term  is the same                                                               
as the length  of government employment, and they  may not charge                                                               
a  fee.  A  notary  public  may hold  both  types  of  commission                                                               
Section 7 changes qualifications. The  age was lowered from 19 to                                                               
18;  the notary  must be  an Alaska  resident and  reside in  the                                                               
U.S.; and he  or she may not  be a convicted felon or  have had a                                                               
commission revoked.                                                                                                             
MS.  KREITZER  reported that  the  remaining  sections relate  to                                                               
changing antiquated language. Section  13 is the repealer section                                                               
and  for   the  most   part  the   repeals  are   rewritten  then                                                               
reincorporated elsewhere in the bill.                                                                                           
CHAIR GARY STEVENS noted that is on page 14 of the bill.                                                                        
Section  14   relates  to  applicability  and   sets  forth  that                                                               
commissions continue in  effect until the term  of office expires                                                               
or if the  commissioned is a felon; bonds,  seals and liabilities                                                               
in effect continue through the  term of office; all notaries must                                                               
follow the notary procedures encompassed  in the legislation; and                                                               
when commissions expire, application  for new commissions will be                                                               
under AS 44.50.031.                                                                                                             
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for  verification that a convicted felon                                                               
would lose his or her commission.                                                                                               
MS. KREITZER said that's correct.                                                                                               
SENATOR COWDERY  asked if notaries  could charge fees  because he                                                               
notices that in the post office they may not charge fees.                                                                       
MS.   KREITZER  replied   limited  governmental   notaries  doing                                                               
government business  may not charge  fees while  private notaries                                                               
may charge fees, but the latter  must develop and adhere to a fee                                                               
schedule. Referring to the postmaster,  she pointed to a proposed                                                               
amendment  in  the  packets  and  explained  that  they  recently                                                               
discovered  that  Alaska  law  has  been  inconsistent  with  the                                                               
federal law.                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  if there  is any  regulation on  how much                                                               
could be charged.                                                                                                               
SCOTT  CLARK,  notary   commission  administrator,  advised  that                                                               
notaries are free to develop their own fee schedule.                                                                            
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  asked  Ms. Kreitzer  to  stay for  potential                                                               
questions then  asked Mr. Clark  if he  would care to  comment on                                                               
the bill.                                                                                                                       
MR. CLARK  wasn't close enough to  the microphone to pick  up his                                                               
SENATOR STEDMAN  contended the question  about the  fee structure                                                               
had merit.  He noted  that many businesses  offer the  service to                                                               
their  customers and  the notaries  he has  worked with  over the                                                               
years  have  been  proud  to  be a  notary  and  take  their  job                                                               
He  asked if  there  is data  on how  many  convicted felons  are                                                               
MR. CLARK replied  there is no current restriction  so they don't                                                               
track  that  information.  Nonetheless, he  wouldn't  expect  the                                                               
number to be very high.                                                                                                         
SENATOR STEDMAN noted  that a great deal  of responsibility comes                                                               
with a  notary commission  and asked for  an explanation  for why                                                               
the age was reduced.                                                                                                            
MR.  CLARK admitted  he wasn't  working in  his current  capacity                                                               
when  the original  notary bill  passed, but  he surmised  it had                                                               
something to do  with the drinking age. He continued  to say that                                                               
all states  but Alaska  and Nebraska have  established 18  as the                                                               
minimum  age for  a notary.  He expressed  full agreement  that a                                                               
notary  work  is  an  important  service  that  should  be  taken                                                               
seriously.  On  the other  hand,  many  entry-level positions  in                                                               
banks tend to go to younger  people. Yesterday he received a call                                                               
from a bank that  was trying to hire an 18 year  old. Part of the                                                               
job  description was  to perform  notary services  and they  were                                                               
uncertain  about  the  age  limit. That  person  might  not  have                                                               
qualified for the  job because they weren't eligible  to become a                                                               
notary for another six months.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  STEDMAN then  asked for  an explanation  of current  and                                                               
proposed authority regarding revocations and extensions.                                                                        
MS.  KREITZER  replied  the current  process  for  revocation  is                                                               
through the  Administrative Procedure  Act (APA).  If there  is a                                                               
complaint  against a  notary, the  governor must  find a  hearing                                                               
officer  to  process  the  complaint.  The  hearing  officer  can                                                               
continue  or revoke  a notary  commission, but  the lt.  governor                                                               
lacks that authority.                                                                                                           
In  the course  of their  review, they  evaluated the  process in                                                               
Washington, Oregon  and Texas and  took an amalgam.  As proposed,                                                               
the lt. governor would have  the authority to evaluate complaints                                                               
for  merit  and  then  take  action  ranging  from  conducting  a                                                               
disciplinary hearing up to revoking a commission.                                                                               
SENATOR STEDMAN asked how many commissions have been revoked.                                                                   
MR. CLARK answered he was not aware of any.                                                                                     
MS.  KREITZER gave  the following  background. One  of the  first                                                               
things she did as  chief of staff was to look at  the jobs in the                                                               
lt. governor's  office to  determine whether or  not there  was a                                                               
better  way to  do things.  With regard  to notaries,  they found                                                               
that the test  they give is not mandatory. Although  they want to                                                               
continue that,  they would  like to move  to an  educational, web                                                               
based, model to better serve the 12,000 notaries in the state.                                                                  
Even  though there  haven't been  a large  number of  complaints,                                                               
they have determined that the  disciplinary section is important.                                                               
Since Lt. Governor  Leman has been in office, she  knows of three                                                               
instances in which notaries pushed the line of propriety.                                                                       
SENATOR  STEDMAN  commented  that  most people  are  honest,  but                                                               
occasionally an unscrupulous person  will modify the signature on                                                               
a notarized  document. He knew  that notaries usually keep  a log                                                               
for  their   own  protection  and   he  was  curious   about  the                                                               
requirements for keeping a log.                                                                                                 
MS. KREITZER replied  that is a policy point  they discussed, but                                                               
because they  don't have the  staff to ensure that  notaries keep                                                               
logs, they just make the strong recommendation that one is kept.                                                                
MR.  CLARK   confirmed  that  the  office   has  always  strongly                                                               
recommended that a  log is kept and they intend  to continue that                                                               
recommendation.  It's  important to  the  public  to be  able  to                                                               
follow  up on  a  notarized  signature and  because  a notary  is                                                               
liable  for every  action  he  or she  takes  as  a notary,  it's                                                               
important for their protection as  well. An accurate detailed log                                                               
is the  only proof a notary  has to show that  they have complied                                                               
with the law.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  GRETCHEN GUESS  referred to  page 3,  line 27  and asked                                                               
what qualifications  are associated with limited  notaries, other                                                               
than being a state, municipal  or federal employees. She observed                                                               
it wasn't  clear whether or  not the qualifications in  section 7                                                               
covered both public and limited notaries.                                                                                       
MS.   KREITZER   replied   both   commissions   have   the   same                                                               
SENATOR GUESS  asked if the  drafter said that is  clear, because                                                               
it doesn't explicitly say that.                                                                                                 
MS. KREITZER gave a nod.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  GUESS   asked  about  the   process  for   revoking  the                                                               
commission if a notary subsequently becomes a felon.                                                                            
CHAIR GARY STEVENS noted she was referring to page 4, line 6.                                                                   
MS.  KREITZER  replied  that  because  they  don't  collect  such                                                               
information, someone  would first  have to  file a  complaint and                                                               
then the  process on  page 11  would be set  into place.  The lt.                                                               
governor would  hear the complaint  and since  felony convictions                                                               
are a  matter of public  record, determining the validity  of the                                                               
complaint would be a simple matter.                                                                                             
SENATOR GUESS  asked if  there is  a reapplication  process after                                                               
four  years at  which  time  the office  might  check for  felony                                                               
MS.  KREITZER  said they  decided  they  didn't want  to  disrupt                                                               
current  commissions so  the only  way someone  would lose  their                                                               
commission  would be  if a  valid complaint  were filed.  The new                                                               
requirements become  effective when  a term  ends and  the notary                                                               
SENATOR GUESS  clarified she  was asking about  cases in  which a                                                               
notary became a felon after they had received a commission.                                                                     
MS. KREITZER said it would be the same complaint driven process.                                                                
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked for  verification that no one  had ever                                                               
lost their commission because of a felony conviction.                                                                           
MR. CLARK said  he has received complaints from  the public about                                                               
notaries  supposedly being  felons, but  because they  don't have                                                               
the  authority  to  investigate   or  discipline  notaries,  they                                                               
haven't followed up on the allegations.                                                                                         
SENATOR  GUESS noted  she didn't  see any  mention in  the fiscal                                                               
note, but she  wondered if the lt. governor's  office would begin                                                               
to conduct background checks.                                                                                                   
MS. KREITZER stated they wouldn't  run checks. Applicants will be                                                               
taken at their word.                                                                                                            
SENATOR COWDERY asked if signature  verification is the only duty                                                               
a notary  performs or  is there also  a requirement  to determine                                                               
whether or not the document is valid as well.                                                                                   
MR. CLARK  replied notaries verify  signatures and  are empowered                                                               
to give oaths.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  asked  him to  clarify that  the  job is  to                                                               
verify that the signer is who they  say they are and not to prove                                                               
the document in any way.                                                                                                        
MR. CLARK  said that is exactly  correct. "A notary serves  as an                                                               
impartial third party  witness to the signer of  a document. They                                                               
verify the identity  of the signer and they witness  the act. The                                                               
act has  to take  place in  front of  the notary  - at  least the                                                               
notarization..."  Notaries   take  an  oath  swearing   that  the                                                               
information they  gave on their  application is full  and correct                                                               
and giving oaths is another common act for a notary.                                                                            
CHAIR GARY STEVENS announced a  proposed amendment was before the                                                               
SENATOR  COWDERY  made  a  motion to  adopt  amendment  number  1                                                               
Page 10, line 10:                                                                                                               
     Delete "a $5 name change fee"                                                                                              
     Insert "the fee under AS 44.19.024"                                                                                        
Page 14, line 11:                                                                                                               
     Insert: "44.50.180(c),"                                                                                                    
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked Ms. Kreitzer to explain the amendment.                                                                 
MS. KREITZER  said after the  bill was drafted she  realized that                                                               
the $5 name change fee was  confusing because it appeared that it                                                               
was  different  than   the  $5  fee  for   certificate  under  AS                                                               
The  second  change  is  related  to  charging  fees  for  notary                                                               
services.  It   repeals  AS  44.50.180(c)   because  it   is  the                                                               
inconsistency she mentioned between Alaska law and federal law.                                                                 
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS  asked  if   there  were  any  questions  or                                                               
objections to adopting amendment number  one and there were none.                                                               
He asked for a motion to move the bill.                                                                                         
SENATOR  COWDERY motioned  to pass  CSSB 302(STA)  from committee                                                               
with the accompanying  fiscal note. There being  no objection, it                                                               
was so ordered.                                                                                                                 

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