Gov. Tom Wolf has signed Senate Bill 841 into law as Act 15 of 2020, covering a host of issues affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 remains a very real threat and each of us needs to continue doing our part to cut back on physical interactions,” the governor said Monday. “This new law is a measured and safe way to provide relief as we continue to monitor the spread of the virus.”
One issue of interest to area automobile dealers is the provision allowing for remote notarization of documents.
Or, as Luther Ford Lincoln of Homer City posted last night on Facebook, “WE’RE BAAACCCKKK!!! Governor Wolf has finally passed the bill and we are open for internet sales!!”
It was one of a wide range of viewpoints from automobile dealers in the Indiana, Homer City and Blairsville areas.
“It’s going to allow us to open up and be able to sell online,” said Alex Almes of AutoSport Co. in Indiana. “Most states have been doing online notary for years.”
Previously, said Shannon McCurdy of Xcelerator Auto LLC in White Township, “in the state of Pennsylvania you had to have a hard copy signature.”
Another term for that is a “wet signature,” one written down on a contract and witnessed by a notary or someone else who is equally qualified.
“There is an online signature allowed in other avenues of business,” said Marvin Brubaker of Value Auto in Armstrong Township.
“We had to have an in-person notary,” said Jack Delaney of Delaney Automotive Group in Indiana. Senate Bill 841 “gives us ability to do e-notarization.”
“It’s definitely a better situation than it was yesterday,” said Greg Turchetta, group vice president for Tri-Star Motors, whose dealerships include Indiana and Blairsville locations. “It at least gives us a very limited ability to conduct transactions.”
Delaney expressed his appreciation for the governor’s effort, as well as that of lawmakers including state Sen. Joe Pittman and Rep. Jim Struzzi, both R-Indiana.
As explained by the governor’s office, “qualified Pennsylvania notaries public (may) perform remote online notarizations, which will allow auto dealerships to conducted limited car sales and leasing operations through online sales, as a notary is required to complete the transaction.”
“We are pleased with the announcement,” Turchetta said.
Delaney and Turchetta both saw it as a step in the right direction after having been closed saleswise for a month.
“We have had inquiries on sales. We just haven’t been allowed to sell anything,” Delaney said.
“We will be able to get people a new or used vehicle if they are in need of one,” Turchetta said.
Meanwhile, they and other dealers across Indiana County are waiting for things to get back to where customers can visit the showrooms.
“Anything that would get us going would be mighty helpful,” Brubaker said. “We need to get bread on the table.”
Not everyone is satisfied. Some dealers needed more information about what the governor and state legislature has done.
“If they were willing to allow it online, why not in the store,” questioned Sonny Sadler of Sadler Auto Sales in White Township. He said state officials had failed to send him license plates he had requested.
“I turned down at least 10 customers I couldn’t process,” Sadler said. “The poor working class guy, his car blew up, he wants to buy another one, but he can’t put it into his name … but yet you can go online and do it.”
Other provisions in Senate Bill 841/Act 15 include:
• Reauthorization of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council and a requirement that it study the impact of COVID-19 on hospitals and health systems.
• Providing property tax relief by allowing taxing districts to waive late fees and penalties for property taxes paid by Dec. 31, 2020.
• Allowing school districts to renegotiate contracts with service providers to ensure payment of personnel and fixed costs during the school closure.
Also, Struzzi said, Act 15 would “protect educational opportunities for low-income students by allowing educational tax credit contributions to be delayed until the end of the business tax year.”