Over the weekend, legislative history was made in California as Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 696 into law, making the state — the nation’s largest by population — the 44th to enact legislation on remote online notarization. Once implemented, notaries in the Golden State will not only be able to perform online notarization, but will finally have the tools necessary to participate and compete in the digital economy.
Our company’s legislative achievements in the past 8 years have been Herculean, but not independent, and California was no different. First we would like to thank Senator Anthony Portantino who sponsored SB 696 and was a tireless champion for the legislation from day one. We applaud and extend our thanks to Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber, and the California State Legislature in its entirety for their dedication to bringing online notarization to the people — and especially, the notaries — across the state.
This legislative milestone — the most significant for our company to date, without a doubt — is an achievement worthy of celebration. While it’s difficult to articulate the impact and importance in its entirety, here’s everything you need to know in the immediate wake of this development about what this means for California, the accessibility of our platform — for notaries and signers, alike — and the future of online notarization. One thing we know for sure? It’s looking awfully bright.
What is SB 696?
Senate Bill 696 – or SB 696 – was introduced by Senator Portantino in February of 2023. The law represents a comprehensive online notarization proposal that will:
- Allow California's notaries to deliver services online, with modern technologies designed to prevent fraud - protecting both the notary and the signer.
- Ensure consistency of notary standards across in-person notarizations and RON, clarifying existing laws to provide consumers with certainty and confidence that their notarized documents are valid.
- Provide a clear standard so counties and other officials can more effectively verify documents.
- Enhance consumer choice by improving access and affordability for notary services that would otherwise be constrained by location, disability, time availability, or language barriers.
- Enact specific privacy protections over the sensitive data created during the notarization process and maintain the state’s existing privacy laws.
- Create first-of-its-kind consumer protections to help ensure a responsible vendor ecosystem.
Why is SB 696 important?
Senate Bill 696 is a momentous triumph for California notaries, and given both the large population of notaries and consumers in the state, the most significant development to occur within the 11-year history of online notarization legislation.
It’s the culmination of years — the past 5, to be exact — of tireless advocacy efforts by Notarize (now a Proof brand) in collaboration with legislative leaders and key industry stakeholders. The list is expansive, but we’d especially like to extend our gratitude to our partners at the National Notary Association (NNA), California Land Title Association (CLTA), California Escrow Association, California Mortgage Bankers Association (CMBA), the California Association of Realtors (CAR), TechNet, and the dozens of community organizations and grassroots advocates that made their support known, and their voices heard.
California has maintained its position at the helm of technological innovation since the invention of microchips in 1958, which enabled manual processes to be converted into digital technologies. That innovative spirit is what eventually secured Silicon Valley as the global center for high technology and the origin of some of the world’s most transformative developments in digital infrastructure. Fast forward, in the case of SB 696, that spirit has shaped the state’s online notarization legislation which holds the highest remote signer identity proofing standards in the United States.
Not to mention, a state that’s known across the nation for its cultural and geographic diversity deserves a system that supports it as such — and SB 696 will ensure that the people of California not only have access to notaries when and from wherever they need them, but ones proficient in their preferred language.
And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, businesses and consumers can rest assured that even if you’re working across state lines, your document will be recognized in California as legal and valid.
What happens next?
Senate Bill 696 will go into effect in multiple phases, with the first set to begin on January 1, 2024. Once underway, the Secretary of State will implement the legislation over the course of the next several years. This means that the changes won’t be immediate for notaries, and we’ll need to exercise patience for a little while longer. However, we’ll be doing everything we can in the interim to set notaries — and their businesses — up for success to get right to work as soon as possible. We’d be remiss not to share our gratitude for the notary community for helping us get this far, and are eager to work alongside the Secretary of State to support all of your entrepreneurial endeavors in the near future. As always, we’ll continue to share updates as we receive them in the months ahead.
As the late Kobe Bryant said, “If you want to make history, you have to do historic things.”
Here’s to continuing to make history — and a meaningful impact — for years to come, together.
What is the impact of SB 696?
Soon after the Gov. Newsom signed SB 696 into law, Proof founder and CEO Pat Kinsel spoke with HousingWire about California's RON legislation and how Proof is evolving to meet today’s market challenges. You can hear that interview below.