GOOD DEEDS: GETTING LAWS PASSED AND YOU

     There are a number of documents recorded at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds that pertain to the four United States Presidents born in Norfolk County.  One of those Presidents, John Adams, stated, “We are a government of laws, and not of men.”

     In my tenure as Norfolk Register of Deeds, I have gotten to experience firsthand the making of laws. Laws govern our daily lives and have significant impacts.  Not that long ago, the Homestead Protection for your home was $300,000.00.  The legislative process here in Massachusetts increased the Homestead Protection you can put on your home to $500,000.00.  This change in a law benefited each of you as a consumer who owns a house or condominium as your principal residence.

     A Mortgage Discharge Bill was passed into law, giving you, as real estate borrowers, assistance in getting your mortgage discharge document.  This is impactful, as a mortgage discharge once recorded at the Registry of Deeds tells the world that your loan has been paid off.  The Community Preservation Act, which so many of our local communities have implemented, started as an idea in a bill that later became state law here in Massachusetts.

     How do bills become laws?

     A bill becomes a law once it has been passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor.  Once a bill is introduced in either the State House of Representatives or the State Senate, it goes through a series of committee hearings before it is voted on.  Members of the committee can ask questions, suggest changes, and vote on whether or not the bill should be sent to the full House or Senate for consideration.

     Understanding the legislative process can empower you to engage in advocacy and allow you to see how your elected officials are or are not working on issues that matter to you.  Committee hearings are an essential part of the legislative process, as they provide an opportunity for lawmakers to fully understand the potential impact of a bill and make informed decisions.

     As Register of Deeds I was very involved in getting a law passed that paved the way for registered land documents to be remotely submitted electronically via the internet for recording at the Registry of Deeds.  On January 11, 2017, a filed bill, House Bill 3862, An Act Modernizing the Registries of Deeds, became Chapter 404 of the Acts of 2016.  What went into the passing of this law?

     A draft of the legislation, accompanied by a fact sheet, was sent to each one of the 200 members of the State Legislature.  Calls and emails were made in order to get this bill passed into law.  When the bill had its hearing before the Joint Committee on Judiciary, I along with other Registers appeared before the committee to provide testimony.

     The effect of this bill was to pave the way for electronic recording of Land Court documents.  What is now seen as commonplace today only came about because House Bill 3862 received a favorable vote from the Judiciary Committee.  Once this favorable vote occurred, the bill is sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means which reviews every bill for its fiscal impact.  From there this piece of legislation, like all bills that become law, went to the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading for their legal review and approval.

     House Bill 3862 once receiving approval from all these committees, went to the full floor of the State House of Representatives, where it received a favorable vote.  In the State Senate, a similar process occurred, with the legislation getting favorable reviews and votes from that branch’s Ways and Means as well as Third Reading Committees before hitting the Senate Floor for a favorable vote.

     After clearing both chambers, the legislation was sent to the Governor’s Office, where the executive staff did their own fiscal and legal analysis.  The Governor signed this bill into law becoming effective 90 days later.  On that day, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds became the first Registry of Deeds in Massachusetts to record a land court/ registered land document electronically.

     For the current legislative session, a notable piece of legislation is an Act to Increase Transparency in the Massachusetts Land Record Systems to Protect the Property Rights of Homeowners and Businesses.  Senator Michael D. Brady filed legislation in the Massachusetts State Senate, which was given Senate Docket # 194 and referred to the Joint Judiciary Committee as Senate Bill #908 while in the State House of Representatives, Representative Gerard Cassidy filed legislation that was given House Docket #2461 and referred to the Joint Judiciary Committee as House Bill #1411.

     If enacted, this legislation will eliminate the possibility that a homeowner may not know who the holder of their mortgage is because a mortgage assignment was not recorded at the Registry of Deeds.  This legislation would make assignments of residential mortgages more transparent for the consumer.  You, as a borrower, could just look up this information from your home computer via the internet on the Registry’s land records website at www.norfolkdeeds.org or call the Norfolk Registry’s Customer Service Center.

     Also up for consideration is a bill requiring automatic external defibrillators in Norfolk County public buildings.  Representative Denise Garlick filed legislation in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  This bill was given House Docket #1842 and referred to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government as House Bill #2051.

     I was very proud back in 2010 to install and maintain automatic external defibrillators (AED) on all three floors of the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds building.  The Registry of Deeds also pays for the training of staff on the AED, which is a lightweight portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart.  The American Red Cross states that there are better survival rates and outcomes if an AED is used on a person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest in a timely manner.  The American Red Cross has estimated that some 50,000 lives could be saved with improved training and access to an AED.  Representative Denise Garlick wants to use Norfolk County as a pilot program.  The more locations for the AED, increases all our chances for a better health result.  The difference between life and death may be the availability of a functioning AED unit.

     You have learned about the law-making process.  You have read about bills that have become laws and some bills that are being considered to become law.  Maybe some issues or matters you feel strongly about can be put into place by passing a law, as we are a society as well as a government of laws.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds will be closed on Thursday, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is closed Today, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.