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Massage Today
August, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 08

Legislative Changes Return Authority to Local Agencies

By Kathryn Feather, Senior Associate Editor

At a recent hearing before the California Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, the latest amended version of Assembly Bill 1147 revealed some significant changes to the structure of massage certification; most notably a return of authority to local agencies to regulate and restrict the operation of massage establishments that might be engaging in illegal activity such as prostitution or human trafficking.

Assembly Bill 1147 would revise and replace Senate Bill 731 (passed in September 2008 and due to sunset this December), which established a two-tier voluntary certification system that allowed a massage therapist to practice lawfully throughout the state without being subject to city or county ordinances. It also established the CAMTC, a private nonprofit organization acting as the regulator of massage therapy certification. Prior to the passage of SB731, massage therapists in California were subjected to the ordinances enacted by individual cities and counties providing for the licensing and regulation of the business of massage. It was a patch work of various regulations many therapists were eager to see disappear as they were often paying multiple fees to practice in more than one city or county.

However, law enforcement agencies and city and county officials have come forward during this sunset review process to share their concerns and urge the legislature to sunset SB731 and the CAMTC, as they believe the current legislation lends to the proliferation of illegitimate massage establishments, prostitution and human trafficking. The League of California Cities was particularly vocal in a previous hearing in citing the reasons for a return to local control.

CAMTC - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Bill co-author Chris Holden said that, "while the law that created the council, SB731, has helped legitimate massage businesses, it has had unintended consequences. These consequences have tied the hands of cities who want to keep illicit massage businesses out of their communities."

CAMTC CEO Ahmos Netanel shared the following statement with Massage Today in response to the hearings on AB1147.

"We believe it is important to work with state and local leaders, communities, law enforcement and businesses to achieve two goals:

  1. Close illegal massage establishments that cater to prostitution, and in many cases involve human trafficking.
  2. Protect consumers' access to safe therapeutic massage in a respectful environment.

"If enacted, the proposed bill that was recently amended July 1, 2014, would make significant changes to existing law and extend CAMTC's operations through the year 2016. Under the current law, cities and counties cannot impose land use rules, regulations, moratoriums, caps, etc., on businesses that use only CAMTC certified professionals to provide massage services for compensation, unless those land use regulations are also uniformly applied to all others that provide professional services. This proposed AB 1147 would remove that exemption and allow cities and counties to regulate massage businesses in any way that they see fit, as long as they do not:

  • Prohibit a person of one gender from massaging a person of the other gender or to regulate a massage establishment as adult entertainment;
  • Require a massage establishment to have windows, walls that don't extend from floors to ceilings, or other physical structures that interfere with a client's reasonable expectation of privacy;
  • Impose draping requirements beyond covering of genitalia and female breasts, or require clients to wear special clothing;
  • Prohibit locks on external doors if only one person owns the massage business and if there is not more than one employee or independent contractor;
  • Require businesses to post notices in areas viewed by clients that contain explicit language, describe sexual acts, mention genitalia or specific contraception devices;
  • Require that a CAMTC certificate holder take any test, medical exam, background check, or comply with educational requirements beyond what is required of CAMTC certificate holders in general;
  • Require a CAMTC certified individual to obtain another license, certificate, permit or other authorization to practice their profession;
  • Impose dress code requirements beyond the covering of breasts and genitalia (can prohibit see-through clothing or dressing in a way that violates indecent exposure laws); or
  • Prohibit massage for compensation of the glutei muscles, prohibit specific massage techniques recognized as legitimate by CAMTC, or impose requirements beyond prohibition of massage of the genitalia, anal region or female breasts (unless there is written consent of the client and supervision by a physician).

"The proposed bill does not provide any transition from application of existing law to application of the new proposed provisions on January 1, 2015. This current version of AB 1147 will also add additional bases for denial of CAMTC applications and discipline of certificate holders such as engaging in sexually suggestive advertising related to massage; engaging in sexual activity on the premises of a massage establishment; engaging in sexual activity while providing massage for compensation; massaging the genitals, anal region, or female breasts unless the client consents in writing and the massage is supervised by a physician; and failing to fully disclose all requested information on CAMTC's application. The proposed bill would require passage of a CAMTC approved exam and 500 hours of education for CAMTC certification.

"We understand that local governments face real problems with illicit establishments, and CAMTC wants to help. Their goal is our goal – public protection. Over the past six months, CAMTC has been providing specialized training at not cost to local law enforcement agencies. Collaboration with these local agencies will make it easier for CAMTC to take action against applicants and certificate holders who violate state or local law and streamline the way to shut down illicit massage businesses.

"Professional standards must be extended to business establishments so that they will be held accountable. CAMTC supports legislation that will provide cities and counties the explicit authority to address establishments that use massage as a subterfuge for prostitution. AB 1147, with just a few additional amendments, will remove any ambiguity about the authority of cities and counties to close illegal massage establishments or to make their own decisions as to what constitutes a balanced business community."

In early August, AB1147 will go before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, where additional ammendments can be made. According to Netanel, "there are still a few issues that need to be corrected in the bill."

The last day for bills to pass the California Sentate and Assembly is August 31st and the Governor must sign or veto bills by September 30th.


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