Last year, the Remote Online Notary (RON) bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R), Dallas. RONs have been allowed by Executive Order during the pandemic; H.B. 334 seeks to make them permanent.
CBA and many other groups were supportive of the legislation. While CBA had some concerns with certain provisions, we testified in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the measure. We stated that our concerns and many of the concerns of others could be better addressed in future legislative sessions with the benefit of hindsight following implementation of the legislation.
On Sine Die 2021, the Senate passed their version of the bill, which did not include real estate closing by a vote of 52-0. Since changes were made on the Senate side, the bill had to go back to the House to allow those members to “agree” or “disagree” with the Senate revisions.
The House can make one amendment as part of the agree/disagree process. The House amended the bill, added back in the real estate language, and adopted it by a vote of 162-3. The bill was transmitted back to the Senate for a motion to agree/disagree with the changes made in the House.
Sen. Blake Tillery (R), Vidalia, made a motion to disagree with the House substitute to H.B. 334; however, the Lt. Governor did not recognize the motion. Sen. John Albers (R), Roswell, moved that the Senate agree to the House Substitute for the bill. Sen. Albers took the well to argue that the bill encourages homeownership by allowing a digital option for notarization.
Then, Sen. Tillery spoke to the bill and the action that was being considered and suggested that the bill should have been killed earlier in the day. The discussion became heated and personal, no doubt in part due to the late hour. Sen. Tillery insisted that RON hurts community banks and that removing real estate from the bill would help community banks and small businesses. Sen. Albers closed the debate by stating that he had talked with community bankers and acknowledged that we support the bill. In the last 12 months, every one of us has learned to do something differently because of COVID-19. Sen. Albers asked for favorable consideration on the bill. Sen. Brian Strickland (R), McDonough moved to table the bill, and the motion carried with a vote 46-6.
Since the bill was placed on the table and not defeated in a vote, it remains active this session. On Wednesday, January 26th, Sen. Tillery made a motion to disagree with the House Amendment or Substitute. The bill will now go back to the House. The House is expected to insist on their position and the bill will return to the Senate where they will insist on their position as well. If that holds true, a conference committee will be appointed consisting of three members of both the House and Senate to come to a consensus on language for final passage. CBA will continue to follow developments on this bill.