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(File photo: Kevin Featherly)
(File photo: Kevin Featherly)

Notaries aren’t lawyers, new law clarifies

Several new laws passed during the 2018 legislative session went into effect on Jan. 1. Here is a selection of those that may be of interest to attorneys.

Notaries aren’t lawyers

Anyone confusing a notary public with an attorney no longer can blame the state statute.

A section of Senate File 893, the revised uniform bill on notarial acts that Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law on May 20, includes a section about “unauthorized practice of law.” The law went into effect Tuesday.

The section requires any notary public who is not also an attorney, but who advertises services publicly, to include this statement in their messaging: “I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in this state. I am not allowed to draft legal records, give advice on legal matters, including immigration, or charge a fee for those activities.”

The new law also forbids a notary public from using the term “notario” or “notario publico” in association with their work, along with several other restrictions.

Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, authored the House version of the bill prior to losing his reelection bid in November. He said Wednesday that the language was not added because notaries were running around pretending to be lawyers. Instead, he said, it is meant to correct misperceptions about what notaries can do.

“Anecdotally, there was some confusion,” Smith said. “People thought if you are a notary public that perhaps they can be receiving legal advice from you. So we wanted to include that language so that confusion was taken away, as much as we can from the legislative perspective.”

However, Smith said the new law’s larger impact has nothing to do with that section. Its big feature, he said, is language that allows for remote notarial services, so that people can have documents notarized at their kitchen table or office.

“This service traditionally has been done in person with a notary staff and can now be done remotely through the cloud using a smart phone,” Smith said. “It’s incredibly consumer friendly and business friendly.”

The law outlines what remote online notaries look like. For example:

  • Notaries located in Minnesota can communicate with others outside the state on an electronic device or process
  • Notaries can use electronic seals to confirm remotely approved documents
  • Notaries must be registered with the Secretary of State to perform remote online notarizations.

The law, authored on the Senate side by Sen. Jerry Relph, R-St. Cloud, also says that notaries can only be removed by the governor, a district court or the state Department of Commerce Department.

‘Certified’ reinsurers

“Certified reinsurers” have joined licensed and accredited reinsurers as a new class of organization that can assume licensed Minnesota insurance companies’ risk.

A new law gives the state Commerce Department authority over companies that want to work as certified reinsurers in Minnesota. It allows reinsurers licensed outside the state to work here if they can show the Commerce Department that they meet certain requirements.

For example, a reinsurer must demonstrate upon application that it has a surplus of at least $20 million “as regards to policyholders.” It also must show that its accreditation has not been denied within 90 days following submission of its application.

The law, passed as House File 3622, requires the Commerce Department to receive public input on certified reinsurance applications and publish a list of certified reinsurers, along with their ratings from agencies like S&P and Moody’s.

The bill was authored in the House by now-retired Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, and by Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, on the Senate side. Dayton signed it into law on May 8.

Kids and identity theft

House File 1243 creates new credit protections for kids under age 16. It requires consumer reporting agencies to place a security freeze on a protected child’s records within 30 days after receiving a request from someone with verifiable authority to act on the child’s behalf.

The consumer reporting agency may not release the juvenile’s consumer report, any information derived from that child’s consumer report, or any record created for the protected person until they receive a valid request to lift the freeze.

If the reporting agency does not have any of the child’s records at the time a request is made, it is authorized to create a record and then freeze those reports. The law gives credit reporting agencies 30 days to act after receiving a valid request to lift the freeze.

The bill’s House version was authored by Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca. Its Senate file was authored by Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault. Most of its provisions went into effective on Jan. 1.

Public safety PTSD

If a cop, firefighter, corrections officer or medical first responder gets diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and has never before been so diagnosed, a new law presumes the disability is occupational.

The law includes several major caveats, however. The presumption of job-related PTSD can be rebutted if “substantial factors” are brought forward by the employer or insurer. Those must factors must be communicated to the employee upon denial of liability.

The law also states that mental impairment is not considered occupational if it results from “disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, promotion, termination, retirement, or similar action taken in good faith by the employer.”

The same language was folded into the massive Omnibus Prime supplemental budget bill, which Dayton vetoed on May 23. But it survived inside House File 3873, the Workers Compensation bill authored by Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, in the House and Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, in the Senate.

Dayton signed that bill into law on May 20.

Minnesota House Public Information Services contributed to this report

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