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How the NNA fights for Notaries through legislative advocacy

This article is the last in a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Notary Association’s Model Notary Act (MNA) in 2023. For more about Notary law history, please see part 1, “5 important first Notary laws,” and part 2, "The 5 most influential Model Notary Act provisions."

A person looking at a journal

For more than half a century, the NNA has dedicated itself to creating a professional, fair and lucrative environment for Notaries everywhere. It’s an effort that never ends, as it is responsive to how our country and the world change and evolve. But how does the NNA decide what Notary laws to support, and which ones to oppose? We use the Model Notary Act to guide our efforts.

This final article in our series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Model Notary Act will examine how the NNA advocates and fights for effective Notary Public laws and policies.

NNA advocacy philosophy

Since every state has laws regulating Notaries Public, each year there are many legislative bills, administrative rules, and other policies affecting Notaries that pop up on the NNA’s radar. How do we decide how to respond to these policies? Our response is dictated by the Model Notary Act itself. Section 1-2 states the purposes for which the MNA was published. These purposes not only provide the basis for the Model Notary Act; they also are the guiding principles that drive the NNA’s advocacy efforts. Section 1-2 reads:

1-2. Purposes.

This [Act] shall be construed and applied to advance its underlying purposes, which are, to:

  1. promote, serve, and protect the public;
  2. simplify, clarify, and modernize the law governing notaries public;
  3. establish rules of conduct for notaries public;
  4. protect the interests of notaries public;
  5. recognize the significant discretion notaries public exercise in performing notarial acts;
  6. facilitate cross-border recognition of notarial acts;
  7. integrate procedures for notarial acts involving the use of technology; and
  8. unify state notarial laws.

There isn’t a better statement for why the NNA advocates for effective Notary laws. The best way to show how this works is to illustrate how several of these purposes have guided our advocacy outreach on various Notary issues in recent times.

Serving and protecting the public interest

The first purpose — promoting, serving, and protecting the public — is foundational to all the others. It expresses the primary reason Notaries exist. Notaries are public officials who provide official witnessing services to the public at large. Notarial acts are only effective and trustworthy if they fulfill this purpose.

This particular purpose has guided the NNA in advocating for Notary journal and education laws over the years. For example, in past decades the NNA supported journal legislation in the state of Florida and elsewhere because we’ve always believed Notary journals protect the public and promote the public welfare by making notarial acts more reliable.

Similarly, with respect to Notary education, the NNA strongly believes that an educated Notary is better able to promote, serve, and protect the public. This is why the NNA has supported and testified on mandatory Notary training bills and proposed rules in multiple states as they were being considered.

Protecting the interest of Notaries

A second purpose of the Model Notary Act that inspires our advocacy efforts is found in paragraph (4): protecting the interests of Notaries Public. One way the NNA has done this is by supporting legislation to increase the statutory maximum fees Notaries may charge. A recent example was in California. In 2016, Assembly Bill 2217 was introduced and enacted, raising the maximum fees Notaries could charge for the first time since 1993. The Assembly member who authored the bill said his office received over 1,400 support letters from California Notaries triggered by NNA grassroots efforts.

Another example of protecting the interests of Notaries was this year’s enactment of Colorado SB 23-153, a bill that allows interpreters to be used by Notaries and document signers. As a matter of principle, the NNA generally does not support the use of interpreters. We expressed this to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office when they spoke with us about the issue. We urged the Secretary’s office to include fundamental protections and a safe harbor for Notaries in any rules allowing interpreters. While we did not officially support SB 23-153, we were satisfied with several meaningful protections created in the enacted bill. These include permitting a Notary to refuse to perform a notarization involving an interpreter, clarifying that a Notary can rely on an interpreter’s representations as factual, and stating that if there is a misinterpretation, the Notary is not liable for it.

Interstate recognition of notarial acts

One final example that has inspired the NNA in its legislative advocacy efforts is paragraph (6) of MNA Section 1-2: facilitating the cross-border recognition of notarial acts. There isn’t a more important principle that has greater impact on Notaries and notarization than this. The settled law in our country has been that each state officially recognizes the notarial acts of Notaries of sister states. And this is for good reason. It has helped interstate commerce to proliferate and grow our nation’s economy. It has allowed people to transport documents they had notarized in one state and given them confidence that they will be honored in another when needed.

Now imagine the alternative. Commerce would grind to a halt. People who require emergency medical attention out of state could not rely on their healthcare agent named in their notarized medical power of attorney to carry out their wishes for medical treatment if they were unable to make these decisions themselves. People’s estate plans could be legally invalidated, requiring new documents to be drawn up and executed. But health issues and financial costs could prevent them from doing so, affecting their beneficiaries and heirs. The results would be far-reaching and potentially catastrophic.

This is why during the enactments of remote online legislation during the past decade the NNA fought off legislation, such as Georgia House Bill 120 of 2017, that restricted or limited recognition of remote notarizations across state lines and advocated for bills, such as California Senate Bill 696, which officially recognized them.

Tools to help you find your state’s Notary laws

Each year the NNA tracks over 200 individual legislative bills in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Congress. We monitor administrative rule filings across the country, important court cases affecting Notaries, executive orders issued by state governors, and official guidance published by Notary commissioning officials. You can view all the current legislation the NNA is tracking on our Notary law tracking map. Once these Notary policies become law, we summarize and analyze them by creating a new law update in our new Notary laws database. Over 1,000 new laws from 2004 to the present may be found there.

The Model Notary Act is one of the keystones of the NNA’s support of Notaries. As the Notary profession continues to evolve and grow in the decades to come, the MNA will continue to serve as an important guidepost as we advocate for positive, improved new laws to support your important role in witnessing document signatures, identifying signers and preventing fraud.

Bill Anderson is Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Notary Association

1 Comment

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Mauricio Antonio Mejia

15 Nov 2023

Very interesting article. Being a Notary is a privilege, and a great commitment. Practically he is a man of law, like a sheriff in modern times, who has been chosen for standing out among others for his good conduct, morality, capacity, technical knowledge, since he has the endorsement of the State to attest to public acts, that is, , an enormous responsibility. It would also be advisable to review the fees of notaries, since they perform professional tasks when intervening in such specific matters, their fees should be in accordance with their work. Greetings fellow Notaries.

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