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Budget Crunch Lengthens Commission, Testing Process

It’s often said that as California’s economy goes, so goes the nation’s. But if what’s happening in the Golden State continues to be a national indicator — marked by drastic cuts in services, resources and programs, including the simple qualification processes to commission its Notaries — California’s fiscal leadership perch is not one that other states will necessarily hold in high regard.

Facing a $20 billion budget deficit, the largest by far among all the states, California’s financial woes have had a considerable effect on virtually every area of government. Coupled with stringent background screening requirements, these cuts have resulted in significant delays in obtaining or renewing a Notary commission and a reduced number of seats at mandatory testing sites.

A review by Bulletin editors of several large Notary populations outside California revealed that the commissioning process remains largely intact elsewhere. But as states improve their Notary education and testing requirements amid similar budgetary woes, commissioning delays could spread across wide swaths of the country. The bottleneck is so significant in California that the Secretary of State recommends that all new or renewing Notaries complete their mandatory testing and exam at least six months prior to the time they need their commission, or their commission expiration date.

“The state’s continued budget crisis has caused every public agency to reduce spending and find more efficient ways of operating which, for us, has caused delays in the commissioning process,” said Shannan Velayas, a spokeswoman for the California Secretary of State’s office. “One of the state’s necessary cost-saving measures was to amend its contract with the company that administers the mandatory tests on our behalf for persons seeking a Notary commission.”

The state’s renegotiated contract with Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) has resulted in a smaller number of testing sites across the state, and a reduced number of seats, available tests and proctors at each site, Velayas said. Some Notary applicants who have appeared at testing sites without registering far in advance have been turned away. Specifically, Notary Public examinations in some cities such as Palm Springs/Palm Desert, Salinas/Monterey, and Bakersfield are being cut back.

“In these cases, however, the next nearest exam location is a 90-minute drive, or less,” Velayas said. “So we hope that even with the cuts, Notaries can still find a convenient testing location.”

While reports of such delays have mostly originated in California, states like Illinois, Florida, Colorado, Rhode Island, Nevada and New Jersey have either increased professional standards and/or education requirements for their Notaries, or are considering them. Many of these same states — as well as others — face significant, multibillion-dollar budget shortfalls that have forced cuts throughout their respective government agencies.


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