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Massage Today
August, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 08

New Florida Legislation Expands Definition of Massage

By Editorial Staff

Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed Senate Bill 1558 into law on July 19, 2001. The 800-page health care bill includes a small-but-significant section relating to massage, one that officially changes the definition of massage from manipulation of superficial tissues to that of soft tissues.

This is a distinction that many believe will provide greater validation of, and access to, the benefits of massage.

With this language change, insurance companies and other professions cannot claim that Florida massage therapists do not have the right to treat deeper tissue (as was, unfortunately, too often the case in the past), based on any contention that it was not stated as such in the definition of massage. Essentially, massaging "soft tissue" includes superficial tissue massage, whereas massaging "superficial tissue" does not by definition include soft tissue work.

Officially, the change is written as follows in the text of the bill:

"Section 116. Subsection (3) of section 480.033, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:

480.033 Definitions. - As used in this act:

(3) "Massage" means the manipulation of the soft [replaces "superficial"] tissues of the human body with the hand, foot, arm or elbow, whether or not such manipulation is aided by hydrotherapy, including colonic irrigation, or thermal therapy; any electrical or mechanical device; or the application to the human body of a chemical or herbal preparation."

The language change was urged by the Florida State Massage Therapy Association (FSMTA) and the Florida Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA-FL), in conjunction with FSMTA lawyers and lobbyists. The change was then proposed to Florida Representative Frank Farkas, a longtime supporter of massage therapy, who fought to incorporate the new language into the text of the bill in the House.

Providing further insight into the significance of the bill, and the legislative process in general, is Michael McGillicuddy , LMT, NCTMB, first vice president of the Florida State Massage Therapy Association (FSMTA). The following article first appeared in the July/August 2001 issue of Massage Message, the bimonthly publication of the FSMTA. (Editor's note: The text of the original article has been amended slightly to reflect developments that occurred following publication.)

Florida State Massage Therapy Representatives Witness the Last Days of Legislative Session

By Michael McGillicuddy, LMT, NCTMB, FSMTA First Vice President

At the last minute, an end-of-legislative-session trip was arranged for Lynda Solien-Wolfe and myself to attend the closing session of the Florida State Legislature. (Editor's note: Lynda is professional relations chair for the FSMTA, and a Massage Today columnist.)

The first stop on the trip was the governor's office. The request was such that we went straight to his office for the first appointment of the day. When we visited with him, you could tell the session had been stressful. He was very polite, and even shared some stories with us on some of the things that had been going on at the Capitol. He really loves massage and stated: "This is a great idea, having massage at our most stressful time. I'm sure you will be very popular the next two days." [Editor's note: Members of the FSMTA provided complimentary massage at the final days of the Florida legislative session.]

The second stop on our trip was to visit Representative Frank Farkas' office. A great deal of thanks should be extended to Rep. Farkas. He is the person who added the amendment to the bill in the house that will change the definition of massage from "the manipulation of superficial tissue" to "the manipulation of soft tissue of the human body." (Senator Burt Saunders was the sponsor of the language change in the senate version of the bill.)

The bill passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Bush on July 19th. We feel that this language more accurately describes what our profession really does. It may even make insurance reimbursement a little easier for massage therapists. It clearly shows that massage has an effect on more than the superficial tissue, especially from a legal standpoint.

The whole time we were in Rep. Farkas' office, both he and his legislative assistant, Chris Davis, made us feel welcome and supported. I cannot tell you how nice it is to have that kind of friendship in Tallahassee. As our presence was soon discovered, we were soon visiting with Senator Sullivan, Senator Bronson, Senator Posey, Representative Heyman and Representative Trovillion.

We had a special mission to visit with Senator Jim King on this trip. For those of you who were at Legislative Awareness Days, Senator King arranged for us to visit the senate chambers while we were there. He had us take seats in the chambers, then talked to us about the importance of being involved in the political process. Senator King is also the man responsible for helping us get the massage language changed in the senate. A special thanks goes to Sen. King's legislative assistant, Kay Rousseau, for her help in inviting Sen. King to our convention. The senator spoke at the annual convention banquet. (Editor's note: For more information on the FSMTA 2001 convention, please see "Great Times in Orlando at FSMTA's Annual Convention" at

The final moments of the legislative session were very tense. Our lobbyists, Janet Mabry and Allison Sellars-Carvajal, and our lawyer, Paul Lambert, were working to see that the bill our language was attached to did not get sabotaged. The House of Representatives' session was due to end at 9:00 p.m.; however, the House voted to continue until all bills on the floor had been voted on.

Representative Farkas did not get to the final reading of the bill containing our language until 10:30 p.m. If he had not done so, the bill would have died in the final minutes of the session!

The FSMTA Board of Directors voted to recognize both Senator King and Represenative Farkas for their outstanding support of the massage profession. It was an incredible experience watching the last-minute positioning strategies of lawmakers and lobbyists. Either their bills squeaked through at the last minute, or all their efforts were lost for the year.

What I enjoyed most about the trip was being a part of the process whereby a bill goes through the legislature from start to finish. It was an honor to be among the legislators to celebrate at the end of the session.

Reprinted with permission from Massage Message, July/August 2001:16(4), pg 15.


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