Last year, a new law went into effect in Tennessee that changed the practices of every notary in the state. Under the previous law, a notary journal was only required by statute if the notary was charging a notary fee for their services. The new law required that all notaries in Tennessee keep a well-bound journal of all their notarial acts. The old law also had a long and complicated list of maximum fees; the new law repealed that section and replaced it with one saying any reasonable fee could be charged.
After the Secretary of State asked the Attorney General for a clarification on what the new law meant and his office provided an answer, someone apparently decided that they were not happy with the new situation. So, Senate Bill 888 was proposed, passed, and signed by the governor. Now, the newest law is called Public Chapter 76 and it is under that title which you can find it on the Secretary of State’s website here: http://sos.tn.gov/notary-commissions . Look for the 2015 Public Chapter 76 link – clicking on that will open a pdf copy of the new law.
In effect, the new law rolls back the notary journal provision so that a notary journal is only required if a notary fee is charged. There are several new provisions that change the rules in ways that Tennessee has never seen before. Significant changes include:
- the notary journal can be an electronic record;
- the notary or their employer can charge a fee and the requirement for a journal kicks in if either of them do so;
- if the notary is an employee of certain types of financial companies and either the notary or their employer charges a notary fee, then certain privacy laws apply; and
- if the notary is an employee of certain types of financial companies and neither the notary or their employer charges a notary fee, then any records kept by the notary shall be considered records of the notary unless their employer has adopted a written policy stating the records are the property of the company, in which case the same privacy laws apply.
Each of these significant changes mark the first time provisions such as these (electronic record, employer or the notary can charge a notary fee, privacy laws explicitly apply in certain circumstances, and ownership of the notary’s records is defined by law) have been in effect.
If you are a State of Tennessee Notary Public, I urge you to get a copy of this new law and read it several times to be sure you understand it, as the changes spelled out here (as well as those in the 2014 law) are NOT covered in the Tennessee Notary Handbook, which was issued several years ago.
It would have been good if the legislature had given a clear standard on privacy versus public records and applied some specific privacy law to any notary journals kept by notaries here in Tennessee, not just those who are employees at certain types of companies, but that is not what they did.
Meanwhile, I stand by the article that I wrote for the American Association of Notaries in which I stated that a notary journal is required. All of the reasons given in that article still apply, even if the statutory law changes.
The 2 privacy laws referred to in the new Tennessee notary law are the federal Right to Financial Privacy Act of 1978 (see it here: https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/rules/6000-1700.html) and the Tennessee Financial Records Privacy Act (see it here: http://search.mleesmith.com/tca/45-10-0000.html)