In the middle of the 2018 Regular Legislative Session, many notaries are focused on two bills that have been pre-filed. In particular, House Bill 572 and Senate Bill 358, both mirrors of each other, and both concerning the introduction of electronic notary procedures in Louisiana.
But there is another danger lurking in the shadows...
Representative Raymond E. Garofalo is the Chairman of the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure. He has written a bill that could be just as damaging as the electronic notary bills. The problem is that Garofalo has not pre-filed this bill. It is laying in wait like a sleeping dragon.
Since the, "sleeping dragon," has not been pre-filed, it will not have a chance to be studied. Additionally, this bill is rumored to be sixty-seven pages long. If introduced during session, without being pre-filed, nobody will have the time to read it, and therefore they will vote blindly.
Garofalo's bill creates a, "second-class," notary public and actually calls this office, "Notary Public." Current notaries like me, who have studied extensively, passed a rigorous exam, and worked their butts off to become notaries public will now be referred to as, "Civil Law Notaries Public." In order to become one of these second class notaries, all you will have to do is pay a $35 commission fee, and check, "yes" on the question that asks if you have a high school diploma. You will not have to undergo any training at all and you won't have to take any kind of exam.
Once you pay your $35 and sign your form, you will be rewarded with the same kind of stamp and seal that I have, as well as a notary ID number that looks the same as mine (different numbers, but same number issuing system).
The difference is that you won't be able to draft documents. I can draft documents for you to donate your house, give someone power of attorney, sell your boat, etc. I can even draft your last will and testament. But you won't be able to.
The problem with this, "sleeping dragon," is, "Who's going to know the difference?"
The Problems with this Bill:
The, "sub-notary," would be able to witness your signature, but would only be able to charge a maximum of $10 every time they sign. First of all, if nobody's looking, what's going to stop them from charging more? There are plenty of laws in place right now regarding notaries, but the process to report a notary for doing something wrong is so full of red tape, that notaries rarely get in trouble for being unethical or breaking the law.
With that being said, let's take it one step further... if nobody's looking, what's going to stop them from drafting documents without the proper training? What if somebody took the notary class and notary exam four times, got tired of studying and taking the exam over and over again, paid their $35 to become a, "sub-notary," and then started drafting documents because they think they know how to do it? The general public wouldn't be able to tell the difference!
I have been contracted to invalidate many, many documents for various court cases, drafted by notaries and attorneys. If Garofalo's legislation passed, I would never stop invalidating documents drafted by those same people and by second-class notaries pretending they can draft because nobody's going to know the difference..
Also, back to the money issue, if a, "sub-notary," was created, and if they were only allowed to charge $10, the vast majority of the general public would go to, "one of the cheap notaries," instead of using us other notaries for their documents. The love of my life is a notary, too. He owns a UPS Store and charges $15 for each signature. If this legislation was passed, he would either have to cut prices or lose the majority of his business to someone cheaper.
There would also be a massive increase in the numbers of notaries public. In 2005, the State of Louisiana began issuing notary commissions only after a candidate took and passed a very rigorous statewide exam, comparable to the bar exam. In Louisiana, a notary has almost as much authority as an attorney. We can't give legal advice, and we can't defend you in court, but we can draft and authenticate all kinds of documents that affect peoples lives, and have legal effect. So, the exam had to be hard. This was done for several reasons, one of which was to regulate the numbers of notaries public in Louisiana, and the effort was successful. Garofalo's bill would reverse the success held by the inception of the statewide exam in 2005. He wants to undo what was done and what worked.
Representative Garofalo... if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Why is Garofalo doing this? What is his motivation? For the last several years, Representative Garofalo has been attempting to pass bills similar to this one. He has pre-filed them and they have always failed.
He has hidden this bill and not pre-filed it, written it to 67 pages long, and has waited until the last minute to file it, so that nobody has a chance to read it and they just vote for it instead of against it.
Garofalo claims that it is extremely difficult to find a notary public. Actually, it's not. There are 52,760 active notaries public in Louisiana currently. And in the very small area of zip code 70043 (Rep. Garofalo's office zip code), there are 98 active notaries. I firmly believe it's all about the money. He doesn't want to pay the prices of notaries who worked their butts off and passed a pseudo-bar exam to get where they are. He's wanting to limit the amount he pays to $10, instead of $15. Mr. Garofalo, who probably works full time and has great health insurance and a nice car wants to save himself $5.
Forget about the little guy. They didn't need that $15 to buy a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a bag of red beans and an onion. The independent notaries, the retirees who supplement their income with notary work, and the single moms who use notary income to help provide for their kids will all be extremely negatively impacted if this legislation passes.
Really, it's all about the money.
I urge you, keep a watchful eye on www.legis.la.gov. Representative Garofalo's deadline to file this bill is Tuesday. If he does indeed file it, we will need as many notaries as possible to storm the state capitol, attend the committee meeting where it is being heard, and fight this legislation!!