HARRISBURG – A new law will allow notaries to do business remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, clearing a major hurdle that prevented auto sales from being conducted online, according to State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33).
Act 15 of 2020 extends the ability of notaries to notarize documents remotely. A notary public would still be required to confirm an individual’s identity and reasonably identify records, and an audio/visual recording of the notarial act and all related interactions would be required.
“Pennsylvanians need to be able to notarize documents in a safe and convenient manner and sadly, our state is behind the times,” said Mastriano, who is the leader of remote notarization efforts in the Senate.
A result of the new law, the Wolf Administration announced Monday that auto dealerships will be able to conduct online vehicle sales and provided guidance for these businesses to re-open. In-person sales are still prohibited.
The new e-notary option was part of a broad bill designed to help local governments operate during the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing them to conduct remote meetings, extend property tax deadlines and waive penalties for late property tax payments. The law also reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council and requires the panel to prepare a report on the effect of the COVID-19 disaster emergency on healthcare facilities.
Mastriano is also the sponsor of Senate Bill 1097, which would permanently authorize remote notarization – provisions in Act 15 allow the practice to continue for 60 days after the conclusion of the emergency declaration.
Senate Bill 1097 would bring Pennsylvania in line with other states, and modernize the notarization process by permitting audio-visual communications. More than 20 states have already enacted this type of legislation.
“My bill makes the notarization process much easier and straight-forward, and saves everyone valuable time,” said Mastriano. “This proposal does not replace notaries or the services they provide. Rather, the bill authorizes the use of secure and reliable technology to assist notaries in performing their duties. The legislation is user-friendly, and provides notaries with an additional tool to authenticate documents.”
As part of the bill, audio-video communication could be used to E-notarize documents that would otherwise need verified in person. A notary would retain his or her function and responsibilities as an impartial witness, while the technology provides another means by which the notary may perform official duties. Verification and privacy protections are built into the legislation.
A similar version of the legislation, Senate Bill 595 of 2017-2018, passed the Senate unanimously last session but did not advance in the House. In addition to alleviating worries during the COVID-19 outbreak and modernizing state code, the bill will help business travelers, family members working out of state, or veterans on deployment.
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