A temporary change to Minnesota law has expanded the authority for cities to use electronic signatures during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting peacetime emergency.
Chapter 92, signed by Gov. Walz on May 16, expands the authority for cities to use electronic signatures despite any other law, rule, or ordinance that says otherwise.
The new law allows a home rule charter or statutory city, township, or county to accept electronic signatures, documents, and filings during the COVID-19 health pandemic for:
- Planning and zoning applications and permits under Minnesota Statutes, chapters 394 and 462.
- Land use documents under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 505.
- Documents requiring the signature of a licensed architect, licensed engineer, licensed land surveyor, licensed landscape architect, licensed geoscientist, or certified interior designer under Minnesota Statutes, sections 326.03, subdivision 3, and 326.12, subdivision 3.
- Applications for birth and death certificates under Minnesota Statutes, section 144.225.
- Recording a notary commission under Minnesota Statutes, section 359.061.
This law was effective on May 17, 2020, and expires either 60 days after the end of the declared peacetime public health emergency or Jan. 6, 2021, whichever is earlier.
Impetus for new electronic signature flexibility
Under Minnesota Statutes, section 325L.18, cities are currently allowed to accept electronic records and electronic signatures but there are some specific laws that require actual signatures, sometimes called “wet” signatures.
However, with the issues presented by COVID-19, some of these “wet” signature requirements were hard to meet. This created difficulties for public bodies to get signatures.
This new law makes clear that even if an actual signature is required in law, electronic signatures would satisfy that requirement.