Law smoothing way for e-gov

Montana has become the latest state to enact a law that gives electronic

documents the same legal weight as paper documents, paving the way for online

transactions.

Gayle Shirley, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said a procedural

statute called the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), which was

incorporated in the state law, would "smooth the road" for e-government

services.

"I do know that the state of Montana is creating a portal for e-government

services so that a lot more transactions between business and government

and government and the public can occur," she said. She guessed that the

state site would be revamped within a year.

In addition to authorizing state governments to create, send, receive and

store records electronically, UETA allows for the use of electronic records

and signatures, ensures that transactions are not denied enforcement because

they were conducted electronically, ensures that courts can accept such

records as evidence, and establishes a way to notarize a document electronically.

Gov. Judy Martz signed Montana's law electronically March 16 after it unanimously

passed both legislative chambers. The law will take effect July 1.

In all, 29 states have adopted UETA, and 15 more states and Washington,

D.C., have introduced the bill or are considering it.

UETA is more far-reaching than the Electronic Signatures in Global and National

Commerce Act, commonly known as E-Sign, which was signed into law last summer

by President Clinton. E-Sign only authenticates electronic signatures and

records in interstate or foreign commercial transactions but excludes government

procurement and contracts.

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