Massage therapists in California take note: a misguided Assembly bill that could thwart the already narrow regulatory influence of the fledgling California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) is moving closer to becoming law. The two-year-old CAMTC currently provides state-recognized, voluntary certification of massage therapists and practitioners in California, but a new bill reflects a move back to placing regulatory authority once again in the hands of local cities and their police departments.
Assembly Bill 1822, introduced by Assembly Member Sandre Swanson (R- Oakland), is a prime example that while the intentions behind a bill can be good, the results can be ruinous if the full effects of the bill are not taken into consideration. It would appear that Swanson, who has an admirably keen interest in preventing human trafficking, believes he is helping to protect the public through the introduction of this bill.
Assembly Bill 1822 has even been praised by the California Police Chief Organization as providing “needed reforms to California’s massage laws”, and that if passed into law it “will provide the public assurance that they will be receiving massage services from a healing arts professional”. According to a February Capital Update for the organization, this Bill will “provide legislative provisions to prevent prostitution and human traffickers to use the massage profession as a subterfuge for their illegal activities”.
However, what hasn’t been taken into consideration is the huge amount of work that leaders in the message therapy industry in the state and nationwide have put forth for many years to move California toward state-recognized certification of massage therapists and away from their non-standardized and at times lax approval by individual counties and/or municipalities. We as massage therapists need the chance to demonstrate that we can be even more strict on our own than individual jurisdictions.
An April 20th editorial by Massage Today even pointed out that the CAMTC rejects a large number of applicants for certification that apparently had no trouble obtaining city permits to open massage businesses in local jurisdictions. The CAMTC is currently well-equipped under state law to obtain fingerprints from applicants to send to the Department of Justice for background checks so it can filter out criminals. The CAMTC also filters out those who are not appropriately educated to practice massage.
The problem with the bill is that it takes the former responsibility away from CAMTC and instead requires local law enforcement agencies “to conduct a local investigation related to the fitness of the applicant” rather than leaving this duty to CAMTC. The bill thus makes the process of becoming a legitimate massage therapist or practitioner in California much more cumbersome than it needs to be. The bill would also give local law enforcement agencies the power to “approve or disapprove applicants for certification by CAMTC based upon his or her fitness to practice massage therapy, as specified”. This, to me, demonstrates a lack of faith in the CAMTC’s ability to gauge the history of applicants for massage therapy or practitioner certification.
The bottom line: AB 1822 will take regulation of the massage therapy profession two steps backward after it had taken one giant step forward toward greater legitimacy with the onset of the CAMTC. See the most recent version of the bill amended April 13, 2010, here.
This guest post is contributed by Donna Moore, who writes on the topics of massage therapy schools. She welcomes your comments through the contact form on this site.