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Massage Today
May 13, 2010

CA Police Chiefs Counter-Punch On Massage Bill

By Christie Bondurant

In a clear sign that the battle over a proposed California anti-prostitution law that targets massage therapists is heating up, a police chiefs group is now actively urging its members to lobby directly for its approval.

The proposed law, which has been strongly opposed by leaders in the state's massage community, is scheduled to be heard by the California Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 19.

If passed, Assembly Bill 1822 effectively neuters a two-year-old massage certification law that placed certification in the hands of a state board, the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). Further, AB 1822 essentially returns California to the widely-criticized old system that placed primary authority for issuing work permits in the hands of local authorities.

Publication of the bill's details by Massage Today have sparked negotiations between leaders in the community and the bill's author, State Assemblyman Sandré Swanson.

Now however, the chief proponent and sponsor of the bill, the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) has urged police chiefs to contact every member of the California Assembly Appropriations Committee and lobby for it. (See "Capitol Update" written by CPCA lobbyist John Lovell: www.californiapolicechiefs.org/nav_files/capitol_updates/capitol_update_05.03.2010.pdf)

Central to the bill is a "random" sampling of an unknown number of CAMTC applicants produced by the CPCA, which found that the overwhelming majority of them were known prostitutes or of unknown backgrounds. The thinly sourced data, has catapulted the anti-prostitution bill, targeting massage therapists, through various governing bodies to where it currently sits at the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The proposed law originally made it mandatory for local jurisdictions to return to the old system. But apparently because of pressure from the massage community, it was softened in mid-April to make it optional for local authorities to handle issuance of work permits.

Nevertheless, it is widely expected that if passed, local jurisdictions would again take over primary issuing authority. That means, for all practical purposes, therapists would again have to go from police department to police department in order to work.

In a recent interview, Assembly Member Swanson told Massage Today that the data, originally posited by his office as the reason for urgent passage of his bill, was not what he considered in sponsoring the bill.

"I didn't consider that data in my agreement to sponsor the bill. ... So if anybody represented anything different than that - then they're wrong because that is not what I believe," he said in an interview.

He also stated that he would "question" the data, as all of his encounters with massage therapists have proven "quite the opposite." "I would question it (the data)... In terms of the legitimate massage therapists that I'm familiar with they have pride in their profession. They have years of training and they ought to be respected."

However, a letter from his office calling for urgent passage of AB 1822 states, "Justifying the need for this urgency (of passage) is a recent random sampling of CAMTC applicants, which concluded that 57 percent of the applicants were known prostitutes and 32 percent had questionable backgrounds... ." The CAMTC is charged with issuing certifications to therapists under a two-year-old law.

The letter from Swanson's office promoting urgent passage of the bill can be read here.

The data has been strongly contested by the CAMTC. "It is stunning that Assembly Member Swanson would base his entire support for this bill on a complete lie that slanders the profession and when confronted on it, not even pretend that his statement was anything other than 'wrong,'" said Mike Schroeder, a CAMTC board member.

In a letter opposing AB 1822 sent to Assembly Member Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), the CAMTC states, "Unfortunately, the kind of hyperbole associated with AB 1822 began with the suggestion by a lobbyist that a study had been done stating a high number of applications had been approved by CAMTC that should have been denied. In truth, there is no study. Even more, because of the success and efficacy of a statewide entity agreed upon by this Legislature and implemented just nine months ago, there have been 3, 265 applications that CAMTC has not approved, which had been previously approved by local government."

But in a May 3 letter to members of the police association, Lovell makes it clear that the CAMTC has failed in its duties: "The state board's own track record of vetting candidates has been spotty at best, with persons with outright prostitution convictions receiving their certificate."

"Lovell's claim is an outright lie and he knows it," said Schroeder. "Over 3,000 massage therapists rejected by the CAMTC because of prostitution arrests or convictions were licensed by his local departments. CAMTC's procedure is to request local sign off for every certificate."

Schroeder continues, "Lovell should either back up his claims with evidence or admit that he has disgraced himself by slandering an entire profession in order to try to get a temporary political advantage."

Massage Today has written a formal request to Susan Manheimer, CPCA president, asking for a copy of the data.

AB 1822 will need a two-thirds vote in order to become law. The bill passed the Business, Professionals and Consumer Protection Committee on April 20 and was sent to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Editor's note: To vote NO on AB 1822, go to: www.massagetoday.com/bill1822/stop_ab1822.php.

For a list of the Appropriations Committees' phone numbers and emails, go to: www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/newcomframeset.asp?committee=43.

To contact Assembly Member Sandré Swanson's capitol office call (916) 319-2016 or email him at , or contact his legislative consultant Opio Dupree at .

Massage Today will continue to follow this story and provide updates as available. For other Massage Today articles on this issue, read:

To join an open discussion on this issue, log onto our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/massagetoday.

 

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