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Massage Today
February, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 02

Spotlight on California: Moving Toward Regulation

By Chris Voltarel and Beverly May

Introduced in February 2003 by Assemblywoman Kehoe and sponsored by the California chapter of the AMTA (AMTA-CA), Assembly Bill (AB) 1388 proposes state regulation of the massage profession in California.

Member surveys conducted by both the AMTA-CA and Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) found strong support for state regulation. Although a fair number of smaller California towns have no local regulation, the vast majority of massage therapists often work under very onerous local laws; years of efforts to improve these local regulations have been frustrating. The intention of AB 1388 is to create the least, most appropriate regulation possible. Necessary points of the bill naturally include preemption of local ordinances and fees, and reasonable protection for all currently practicing massage legally in California.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the budget and the new governorship, AMTA-CA requested that AB 1388 be held in committee rather than voted on this year. This means that the bill will not be considered in 2004 as it now exists, but will possibly be revived as a new bill in 2005. Keeping the bill in state legislative committee will slow down the process and allow those of us with vested interests more time to address the concerns of everyone involved, including various associations representing cities, counties, law enforcement, health, wellness and spa industries, and other school groups. We plan to proceed knowing we have the votes to pass a good bill and have had the time to make necessary compromises wisely.

Currently, AB 1388 is further along than the sponsors expected when it was first introduced; still, it was a long shot that the bill would be heard this session. Introducing the bill, however, created momentum and helped identify supporters and opponents. There may be an interim hearing regarding the bill in early 2004, at which time we will focus on building support and improving the bill. Waiting to introduce it again in 2005 will give us plenty of time to address concerns in a new two-year legislative session.

AMTA-CA has funded this project and done much of the grassroots work; however, it has not worked alone. A coalition of massage professionals, including representatives from AMTA-CA, ABMP and various school groups, has been working to implement the best possible bill for California. Associations representing reflexologists, Trager practitioners, energy workers and many other specialty groups have worked closely with AMTA-CA sponsors to ensure they, too, are treated appropriately under the law; moreover, we have achieved significant support from groups we had not expected, as well as support from legislators and local officials.

Politics and regulations bring out the best and worst in people. Martin Luther King said that the end never justifies the means - it is through the means that the spirituality of the end is defined. If we are to guide our clients to wholeness through caring touch, we must model the highest level of integrity in our actions. It is with such a commitment that AMTA-CA pursues improvement of the regulatory environment in California.


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