[Congressional Record Volume 153, Number 109 (Tuesday, July 10, 2007)]
[House]
[Pages H7466-H7468]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




          INTERSTATE RECOGNITION OF NOTARIZATIONS ACT OF 2007

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (H.R. 1979) to require any Federal or State court to recognize any 
notarization made by a notary public licensed by a State other than the 
State where the court is located when such notarization, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 1979

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Interstate Recognition of 
     Notarizations Act of 2007''.

     SEC. 2. RECOGNITION OF NOTARIZATIONS IN FEDERAL COURTS.

       Each Federal court shall recognize any lawful notarization 
     made by a notary public licensed or commissioned under the 
     laws of a State other than the State where the Federal court 
     is located if--
       (1) such notarization occurs in or affects interstate 
     commerce; and
       (2)(A) a seal of office, as symbol of the notary public's 
     authority, is used in the notarization; or
       (B) in the case of an electronic record, the seal 
     information is securely attached to, or logically associated 
     with, the electronic record so as to render the record 
     tamper-resistant.

     SEC. 3. RECOGNITION OF NOTARIZATIONS IN STATE COURTS.

       Each court that operates under the jurisdiction of a State 
     shall recognize any lawful notarization made by a notary 
     public licensed or commissioned under the laws of a State 
     other than the State where the court is located if--
       (1) such notarization occurs in or affects interstate 
     commerce; and
       (2)(A) a seal of office, as symbol of the notary public's 
     authority, is used in the notarization; or
       (B) in the case of an electronic record, the seal 
     information is securely attached to, or logically associated 
     with, the electronic record so as to render the record 
     tamper-resistant.

     SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.

       In this Act:
       (1) Electronic record.--The term ``electronic record'' has 
     the meaning given that term in section 106 of the Electronic 
     Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (15 U.S.C. 
     7006).
       (2) Logically associated with.--Seal information is 
     ``logically associated with'' an electronic record if the 
     seal information is securely bound to the electronic record 
     in such a manner as to make it impracticable to falsify or 
     alter, without detection, either the record or the seal 
     information.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Michigan (Mr. Conyers) and the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. 
Coble) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Michigan.


                             General Leave

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include 
extraneous material on the bill under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Michigan?
  There was no objection.

                              {time}  1615

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, this measure is a commonsense requirement 
with respect to the process of notarizing documents that occur in every 
State, every city, every county. And what we do in H.R. 1979 is simply 
to require Federal and State courts to recognize documents lawfully 
notarized in any State of the Union when interstate commerce is, in 
fact, involved.
  As we all know, notary publics play a critical role in ensuring that 
the signer of a document is, indeed, who he or she claims to be and 
that the person has willingly and without coercion signed the document. 
By performing these two tasks, the notary public serves as an 
indispensable first line of defense against fraudulent acts and other 
manipulations of contracts and other documents.

[[Page H7467]]

  Although the purpose of notarizations is the same across our Nation, 
each State has, in the course of time, established its own laws 
governing the recognition of notarized documents. And some things are 
required in some places, and other things are required in others. And 
so the lack of consistent technical rules and the resultant formalities 
make it unnecessarily difficult for courts to recognize out-of-State 
notarizations. Some places impose certain technical requirements, such 
as dictating that the ink seals must be used, while others require 
embossers. Some States demand very particular language in the 
acknowledgment certificate and will, accordingly, reject out-of-State 
notarizations that lack the same language that they require in their 
State. And there are many other little details that create snafus, 
create problems in accepting documents that have been notarized and may 
be different in some small technical way. These inconsistencies, of 
course, do not further the goals of notarization. In fact, this problem 
has led to the bill that we have before us. And I'm very pleased to 
thank the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Aderholt) and Mr. Artur Davis, 
also of Alabama, Mr. Braley of Iowa, who have all together introduced 
this measure. And so what we're seeing here is that we propose to grant 
relief to these kinds of snafus that occur in accepting out-of-State 
notarizations.
  H.R. 1979 is supported by the National Notary Association, countless 
numbers of notary publics in many States, the academics that follow 
this arcane area of the law, and we think that they are correct, that 
we're making an important revision in how notarized documents are 
recognized by the courts, all courts. And it's in that spirit that I 
introduce or urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1979.
  I'll reserve the balance of my time, Mr. Speaker.
  Mr. COBLE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, Representative Aderholt's bill eliminates unnecessary 
impediments in handling the everyday transactions of individuals and 
businesses. Many documents executed and notarized in one State, either 
by design or happenstance, find their way into neighboring or more 
distant States. A document should not be refused admission to support 
or defend a claim in court solely on the ground it was not notarized in 
the State where the Court sits. H.R. 1979 ensures this will not result.
  A notarization, in and of itself, Mr. Speaker, neither validates a 
document nor speaks to the truthfulness or accuracy of its contents. 
The notarization serves a different function. It verifies that a 
document's signer is who he or she purports to be and has willingly 
signed or executed the document.
  By executing the appropriate certificate, the notary public, as a 
disinterested party to the transaction, informs all other parties 
relying upon or using the document that it is the act of the person who 
signed it.
  H.R. 1979 compels a court to accept the authenticity of the document, 
even though the notarization was performed in a State other than where 
the form is located. This reaffirms the importance of the notarial act.
  Mr. Speaker, after hearing testimony on this subject before the 
Judiciary Committee during the 109th Congress, I have concluded that 
the refusal of one State to accept the validity of another State's 
notarized document in an intrastate legal proceeding is just plain 
provincial and insular.
  Some of the examples were based on petty reasons. For example, one 
State requires a notary to affix an ink stamp to a document, an act 
that is not recognized in a sister State that may well require 
documents to be notarized with a raised, embossed seal.
  Passing this bill will streamline interstate commercial and legal 
transactions consistent with the guarantees of the Full Faith and 
Credit Clause of the Constitution. Mr. Speaker, I urge its passage.
  Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to recognize the chief sponsor of the bill, 
the distinguished gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Aderholt), for such time 
as he may consume.
  Mr. ADERHOLT. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Chairman's support for 
this legislation to be brought to the floor. I also want to say that I 
appreciate Congressman Coble, his lending his support for this 
legislation and making sure that it gets to the floor today. And as 
Chairman Conyers noted, Congressman Davis of Alabama and Congressman 
Braley of Iowa have been very helpful in this effort as well. So I'm 
glad to have their support.
  One other person that has been very supportive that actually called 
this to my attention initially was a friend of mine from Alabama, Mike 
Turner, some time ago brought this issue to my attention, and so I'm 
glad that we can work on this and try to get this resolved here on the 
floor of the House and through the United States Congress.
  I'm pleased to have been able to work together with the committee of 
jurisdiction to find a satisfactory solution to this issue dealing with 
recognition across State lines. During the hearing that was held during 
the 109th Congress, which has already been mentioned, by the 
Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, 
then Ranking Member Howard Berman pointed out that though the topic of 
notary recognition between the States is not necessarily the most 
exciting issue, it is an extremely practical one. And to my colleague 
who, of course, now chairs that subcommittee, I would have to agree 
with him on both points.
  During the hearing, which was held back in March of 2006, we heard 
from several witnesses who all agree that this is an ongoing and a 
difficult problem for interstate commerce. To businesses and 
individuals engaged in businesses across State lines, this is a matter 
long overdue that is being resolved.
  H.R. 1979, the bill today, will eliminate confusion that arises when 
States refuse to acknowledge the integrity of documents from another 
State. This act preserves the right of States to set standards and 
regulate notaries, while reducing the burden on the average citizen who 
has to use the Court system.
  It will streamline the interstate, commercial, and legal transaction 
consistent with the guarantees of the State's rights that are called 
for in the Full Faith in Credit Clause of the United States 
Constitution.
  Currently, as the law is today, each State is responsible for 
regulating its notaries. Typically, an individual will pay a fee, will 
submit an application, takes an oath of office. Some States require the 
applicants to enroll in educational courses, pass exams and even to 
obtain a notary bond. Nothing in this legislation will change these 
steps. We are not trying to mandate how States regulate notaries which 
they appoint.
  In addition, the bill will also not preclude the challenge of 
notarized documents such as a will contest.
  During the subcommittee hearings on this bill that were held back in 
the 109th Congress, Tim Reineger, who serves as the executive director 
of the National Notary Association stated, ``We like this bill because 
it is talking about a standard for the legal effects of the material 
act, the admissibility of it, not at all interfering with the State 
requirements for education and regulation of the notaries themselves.''
  This is an issue that has really lagged on for many, many years. When 
I was first elected to Congress back in 1997, this was an issue that I 
was first made aware of, and here we are in 2007, and this issue is 
still not resolved. And this is an issue that people who deal with 
notaries on a daily basis deal with, to a lot of frustration.
  And simply, this legislation that we have before the House today and 
that will be going before the United States Senate, hopefully in a very 
short period of time, will address this problem. It will try to 
expedite interstate commerce so that court documents and so that when 
notaries are in one State or the other, they will be fully recognized.
  And again, I think it must be stressed that it is in no way trying to 
mandate what a State should do or should not do. It simply allows there 
to be more free flow of commerce between the States and particularly 
when you're talking about the regulation of notaries themselves.
  Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your support, Congressman Coble 
for your support of this legislation, and allowing it to be able to 
move forward today. And I would urge my colleagues that when this bill 
comes for a vote, that they would support it under the suspension of 
the rules.

[[Page H7468]]

  Mr. COBLE. In closing, Mr. Speaker, this addresses a problem that has 
come across my path many times. Back home, Mr. Conyers, I don't know 
about you in Michigan, but in North Carolina, I hear this complaint 
frequently. A document properly notarized in one State, and then as I 
said, it must be by happenstance, crosses a State line and goes to 
another State, and then, of course, denial rears her ugly head, and all 
sorts of confusion results.

                              {time}  1630

  So this addresses a problem that needs to be fixed, and I think this 
legislation does it.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I commend the author of this bill, Mr. 
Aderholt, and always I am pleased to come to the floor with the floor 
manager on the Republican side, Mr. Coble.
  And I only want to underscore the fact that communications interstate 
are so common and frequent that this is a long overdue and important 
improvement in the relations of legal documents between the citizens of 
the several States. So I am proud to sign off with you and join in 
urging that this matter be unanimously supported by the distinguished 
House of Representatives.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) that the House suspend the rules 
and pass the bill, H.R. 1979, as amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
  The title was amended so as to read: ``A bill to require any Federal 
or State court to recognize any notarization made by a notary public 
licensed by a State other than the State where the court is located 
when such notarization occurs in or affects interstate commerce.''.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________