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Massage Today
April, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 04

Legislative Alerts in New Mexico and Arkansas

Bills Target State Boards

By Christie Bondurant

Pending legislation in Arkansas and New Mexico threatens the authority of state boards currently charged with oversight of massage therapy regulation in those two states. While the bills differ in substance, both are considered serious threats to the existing bodies that regulate the practice of massage including: the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy and the New Mexico Massage Therapy Board. Both the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) and the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) have put the bills on the massage community's radar.

Arkansas: House Bill 1162

Arkansas House Bill 1162 is of particular concern as it calls for the transfer of authority now assigned to the massage therapy board to the Arkansas Board of Health. HB 1162 is "an act to abolish the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy and to transfer all duties to the Department of Health; and for other purposes" effective July 1, 2009. Introduced on Jan. 22, 2009 by Rep. Beverly Pyle (R), the bill has passed first and second reading and was referred to the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. The legislative intent of the bill is stipulated in Section 1: "Improve the health of the citizens of Arkansas in an effective and efficient manner; and provide effective administration of the delivery of massage-related programs. It is the intent of the General Assembly to provide an orderly transfer of powers, authorities, duties, and functions of the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy to the State Board of Health and the Department of Health with a minimum disruption of government services and functions and with a minimum expense."

Dena Tabor, executive director of the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy, confirmed that the state board is opposed to the bill and said that there was no warning prior to the introduction of the legislation that the state had any issues with the board's competancy or efficiency. In an interview, Tabor said that Rep. Pyle has offered no factual basis as to why this law was introduced.

The bill also includes language to amend the Arkansas Massage Therapy Practice Act and replaces the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy with the State Board of Health and The Massage Therapy Technical Advisory Committee, consisting of 7 members appointed by the State Board of Health (not the Governor).

As of press time, the office of Rep. Pyle did not respond to inquiry from Massage Today. The bill is still in review. To read the bill in its entirety: www.arkleg.state.ar.us.

New Mexico: House Bill 664

News paper annoucing Legislative Alerts In N.M. and ARK. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark In New Mexico, the Massage Therapy Practice Act, passed for the protection of the public regarding regulation and rules of practice, has been administered successfully by the New Mexico Massage Therapy Board for more than 15 years. But House Bill 664 threatens the current oversight of the board by implementating the "Unlicensed Health Care Practice Act," which moves "bodywork, massage and therapy," into an unlicensed category called "complementary and alternative health care services." To view the entire bill visit: www.nmlegis.gov.

This bill, introduced by Rep. Ken Martinez, came with heavy opposition including a legislative alert put out to the massage community by the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) and responses from the New Mexico Board of Massage Therapy and the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

In a letter addressing Rep. Martinez, Bill Brown, AMTA government and industry relations director, states the serious implications this bill would bring to the profession. "The inclusion of this language will circumvent the Massage Therapy Practice Act and promote the unlicensed practice of massage therapy. This, in turn, will significantly lower the professional standards of education, professional conduct and ethics and provided penalty to licensees in violation of these standards."

According to Peter Lane of the New Mexico Board of Massage Therapy, the sponsors have backed off of the specific language that would include "bodywork, massage and therapy" under an unlicensed category after reminder of the thousands of massage therapists, and registered voters, who would be disappointed if a bill with this language passed.

Lane encourages therapists in every state to voice their concerns to their representatives in regards to legislation, and speculates that language like this can "spread like a bad disease," if not remedied immediately.

Just as the New Mexico Board of Massage Therapy has taken action, the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy has opposed HB 1162, and contacted Rep. Pyle for a meeting to discuss the details and reasoning behind this bill, according to Tabor. As of press time, Tabor has not heard back from Rep. Pyle. Susie Byrd, president of the Arkansas massage board, asks massage therapists to contact their representatives to oppose HB 1162.

 

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