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Notary Notes

The Challenges of Implementing RULONA

by PAN
Since March 2014, Julio Pena, manager of the State's Division of Commissions, Legislation and Notaries, was one of the key team members who were instrumental in implementing RULONA.

As work began on RULONA, Julio said the easiest part of getting the law in place was understanding the changes and challenges ahead and preparing as much as possible.

"We had good people working hard to make it a smooth transition," Julio said.

There were, however, several challenging aspects of RULONA.

"We had the implementation of the examination, which included the interaction of two IT vendors and therefore the need for flawless communication to address the issues that arose after the system was live," said Julio. "The education for notaies and the public was another aspect. We sent emails to all the people we thought were notaries or had contact with them and/or wanted to become notaries."

The State continues to receive calls in which notaries are unaware of the major changes that RULONA brought about, such as notarial acts, stamp changes, journal changes, and education.

"We received a mixture of comments; we've gotten some negative feedback from some notaries, especially those that work in small businesses. They have said the changes of RULONA will be disruptive to their routines," said Julio. "Some understand that the change is, overall, a positive development. Other notaries decided that they no longer wish to continue to be a notary. These comments are expected after something changes."

Mandatory education and disciplinary actions

One of the major changes of RULONA is the requirement of all notaries to obtain three hours of mandatory notary education. The Department hopes that by requiring all notaries to take education, it will decrease the number of disciplined notaries.

"I don't believe it will stop completely, but it is our hope that these discipline actions are reduced, to the benefit of both the public and the notaries," Julio added.

He recommended five areas notaries should focus on to avoid getting disciplined:
  1. Always require personal appearance.
  2. Do not notarize documents if you are not familiar with the duties and responsibilities of a notary public.
  3. Stick to one role - do not act as both witness and notary for a transaction.
  4. Record the notarial act in your journal right away; do not leave this task to a later time.
  5. Keep your journal and seal under control and do not leave them accessible to others in a way that people can use them when you are not around.
RULONA regulations

There are still a few more steps required before RULONA's regulations are finalized, Julio noted.

"While the statutory language of RULONA provides the framework for Pennsylvania notary law, we hope that the regulations will fill out more of the details required for notary practice," he said. "We have not introduced any radical changes through the regulatory process but have tried to formalize existing best practices and the rules which exist in existing case law. It is our hope that the regulations offer details and answer many of the questions about notary practice that my staff receives every day."

Advice for PAN members

Julio recommended that PAN members who hae not renewed their commissions and still have time to renew to become familiar with the changes of the new law.

"Do not wait until the last minute to renew your commission. If your commission expires, even just for one day, you must take the examination," said Julio. "Please make the name and address changes prior to submitting your renewal."

How PAN can help

"some notaries do not understand the applicaton process changes under RULONA. For applicants who are required to take the examination, make your members aware that the education course and application comes before the actual examination," Julio said. "Once they receive an email from the State-approved vendor, Pearson VUE, please follow the instructions to create their user and password and schedule the examination. They will not receive the examination email from the State, but from Pearson VUE."

Providing a current email address on the notary application is required. This is the email address in which Pearson VUE will send the examination notice.

"If they miss the email, they need to look in their delete and junk mail folders," Julio recommended.

Applicants need to understand the importance of the timlelines in the commissioning process. Once approved to take the exam,  Julio explained, they have six months to do so.

"But it may be best to schedule the examination as soon as possible, while the educaiotn materials are fresh in their applicant's memory and to offer a cushion in case it is necessary to take the examination again."

Julio recommended that applicants should pay close attention to the education course and materials.

"And finally, please make sure that all applicants know they have 45 days to complete the final steps to be sworn in as a notary and that they follow through in that time period," he said. "If they let that period expire, they will have to start the whole application process over again."


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