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Monday, March 1, 2010

UCC Legislative Update

It has been a fairly quiet eight months on the UCC legislative front since my last update.

Revised Article 1

As of March 1, 2010, Revised Article 1 was in effect in thirty-seven states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

State legislatures continue to grapple with the definition of "good faith," although the uniform § R1-201(b)(20) definition has the upper hand.  Of the 37 enacting states, 26 have adopted the uniform definition, while 11 have retained the pre-revised definition that, in conjunction with § 2-103(1)(b), imposes a different good faith standard on merchants and non-merchants.  Effective July 1, 2010, one of those eleven minority states (Indiana) will join the majority as SB 501, enacted in 2009 primarily for the purpose of amending Articles 3 and 4, also included a new good faith definition for Indiana's Article 1.

With many state legislatures occupied with more pressing issues of the moment, 2009 yielded only three new adoptions -- Alaska, Maine, and Oregon -- down from five in 2008, and seven in 2007.  While a downward trend in new enactments eventually becomes inevitable once two-thirds of the states have signed on, 2009's three enactments were the fewest in a year since 2003 (when Idaho became the third state overall to enact Revised Article 1).

As of March 1, only two states -- Mississippi and Wisconsin -- appear to be serious candidates to enact Revised Article 1 in 2010.

Mississippi SB 2419, introduced and amended (to replace a choice-of-law provision that appeared to have derived from the original § R1-301 that all 37 enacting states have declined to adopt and the ALI and NCCUSL have disavowed with one that reflected the substitute § R1-301 the ALI and NCCUSL promulgated in 2008) in January, unanimously passed the Mississippi Senate on February 10.  It is presently before the House Judiciary Committee.

Wisconsin AB 687, introduced on January 25 and amended on February 16 to replace the uniform R1-201(b)(20) "good faith" definition with the pre-revised 1-201(19) version, received the Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions's unanimous approval on February 26.  It is presently before the Assembly Rules Committee.

Two other bills, Massachusetts HB 89 and Washington SB 5155, seem less likely to produce results.

Massachusetts HB 89, a fifth attempt to enact Revised Article 1 in the Commonwealth, was assigned to the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies on January 20, 2009.  No further action has been reported as of March 1, 2010.

Washington SB 5155, introduced on January 15, 2009, appeared to be drawn directly from the language of official Revised Article 1 circa 2001, including the original version of § R1-301.  At an initial public hearing on January 23, 2009, all those testifying in support of and in opposition to the bill opposed the choice-of-law provision.  The Washington Senate has taken no further action on the bill.

Article 2 and 2A Amendments

As of March 1, 2010, only three state legislatures (Kansas, Nevada, and Oklahoma) have considered bills proposing to enact the 2003 amendments to UCC Articles 2 and 2A. In 2005, Oklahoma amended Sections 2-105 and 2A-103 of its Commercial Code to add that the definition of “goods” for purposes of Articles 2 and 2A, respectively, “does not include information,” see 12A Okla. Stat. Ann. §§ 2-105(1) & 2A-103(1)(h) (West 2009), and amended its Section 2-106 to add that “contract for sale” for purposes of Article 2 “does not include a license of information,” see id. § 2-106(1). The net effect is similar to having enacted Amended §§ 2-103(k) & 2A-103(1)(n), both of which exclude information from the meaning of “goods” for purposes of Article 2 and 2A, respectively. Otherwise, no state has enacted any of the 2003 amendments.

While the list of states enacting any of the 2003 amendments may not change in the near future, the number of amendments Oklahoma enacts may.  Introduced on February 1, 2010, Oklahoma HB 3104 proposes amendments to forty-nine sections of Article 2 and four sections of Article 2A.  The bill includes neither the reformulation of Sections 2-206 and 2-207 nor the addition of Sections 2-313A and 2-313B included in the 2003 Article 2 amendments.  Many of the amendments appear designed to facilitate electronic signatures and transactions and to accommodate the terminology surrounding them that grows out of UETA, E-SIGN, and Revised UCC Articles 1 and 7, or to otherwise align Article 2 and 2A terminology with that used in Revised Articles 1 and 7.  That is not to say that HB 3104 proposes only cosmetic changes to Oklahoma's versions of Articles 2 and 2A.  Several of the proposed amendments alter existing substantive rights, obligations, or remedies.  Some of those alterations (e.g., raising the statute of frauds floor from $500 to $5,000) do not seem to be inherently controversial; some (e.g., granting/recognizing a right to cure after a justifiable revocation) may or may not be controversial depending on how courts have interpreted the current Article 2; and some (e.g., giving sellers the right to recover consequential damages) do seem inherently controversial.  This, however, is neither the place nor the time for a detailed assessment of HB 3104. 

Article 3 and 4 Amendments

As of March 1, 2010, the 2002 amendments to Articles 3 and 4 were in effect in eight states: Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma (for a second time), South Carolina, and Texas.

In addition to enacting the 2002 amendments to Articles 3 and 4 and the usual conforming amendments, Indiana SB 501, which Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law on May 12, 2009, but does not take effect until July 1, 2010 also revises the definition of “good faith” in Ind. Code § 26-1-1-201(19) to require all parties to act honestly and to observe reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing. At present, Ind. Code § 26-1-1-201(19) requires only “honesty in fact.” Like the rest of SB 501, this change will take effect July 1, 2010, and further tip the balance among enacting states in favor of the unitary good faith definition in uniform R1-201(b)(20).

As of March 1, 2010, the only pending Articles 3 and 4 bill is Massachusetts HB 90, which has been languishing for more than a year.

Revised Article 7

As of March 1, 2010, Revised UCC Article 7 was in effect in thirty-six states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Additional bills are currently pending in Georgia, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin; but only the Wisconsin bill appears to be making any progress.

First introduced on February 18, 2009, Georgia HB 451 won unanimous approval in the Georgia House on March 12, and the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended passage on March 26. However, the legislature adjourned on April 3 without a third reading and final action in the senate.  HB 451 was "recommitted" to the Georgia Senate on January 11, 2010.  No further action has been reported.

Massachusetts HB 89, which also proposes adopting Revised Article 1, was assigned to the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies on January 20, 2009.  No further action has been reported.

Washington SB 5154 was introduced on January 15, 2009, scheduled for a public hearing on January 23, 2009, and then stalled, like its Revised Article 1 counterpart, but without as compelling a reason.  It was "reintroduced and retained in present status" on January 11, 2010.  No further action has been reported.

Wisconsin AB 688 was introduced on January 25, 2010.  On February 22, the Assembly Committee on Jobs, the Economy and Small Business unanimously recommended passage.  The bill is now before the Assembly Rules Committee.


[Keith A. Rowley]

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