Business Regulations Changing

By Jean Robinson
[Government Relations]

In response to an increase in illicit establishments, including fronts for prostitution and human trafficking, several state massage boards are now considering regulating massage businesses, as well as individual practitioners.

ABMP typically opposes massage establishment licensing because there are few legitimate public safety concerns as they relate to the practice of massage therapy. There are no chemicals used when providing massage, nor are there any other sanitary reasons to impose this level of regulation upon professionals. It also creates yet another regulation for law-abiding massage therapists to follow and pay for, while criminals are likely to continue to operate unaffected.
Instead, ABMP advocates for better enforcement of the laws already in effect. The state licensing of massage therapists can serve as a tool for law enforcement to differentiate between legitimate practitioners and criminals operating under the guise of massage. However, massage regulatory boards only have authority over the practice of massage; they need law enforcement to deal with criminals. There must be collaboration for effective enforcement.
A Compromise to Consider
Oregon has crafted a good compromise. Senate Bill (SB) 387 was signed into law on June 13, 2013. Beginning January 1, 2014, “massage facilities,” defined as any “facility where a person engages in the practice of massage,” will be required to obtain a massage facility permit from the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists (OBMT) in order to operate. The requirement will not apply to massage schools, or massage facilities that are owned or operated by licensed massage therapists, or other health professionals regulated by the state.
ABMP supported this bill because it exempts licensed massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and other professionals from the facility permit requirement. This exemption makes sense because facility complaints received by the board have been about nonlicensed independent owners; there have been no complaints about businesses run by LMTs and other health professionals.

Other Facility Regulations
Florida, one of 10 states currently regulating massage establishments, passed House Bill 7005, which prohibits the operation of massage establishments between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. unless located on the premises of health-care facilities, hotels, time-shares, or airports. Massages performed under a medical prescription are also exempt from this prohibition. The new law also states that a massage establishment cannot be used as a primary residence unless it is zoned for residential use. The new law takes effect October 1, 2013.
In Washington, proposed House Bill 1981 will require that massage therapy businesses, or “establishments,” obtain establishment licenses from the State Department of Health in order to operate.
The bill lists several exemptions: student clinics, establishments owned by licensed medical professionals or that provide only chair massage, establishments owned and operated by a licensed massage practitioner who is the only practitioner working in that establishment, and establishments affiliated with a national massage franchise. ABMP opposes the bill and would be in favor of amending it to be more consistent with Oregon’s SB 387.
ABMP will continue to work to ensure our members and other massage therapists are not negatively impacted by the expansion of regulatory board authority.

Failed ...

• Indiana Senate Bill 573 would have changed the current state certification (title protection) program to a mandatory licensing (practice act) program. We expect to see the same bill introduced next year.

• Kansas House Bill 2187 would have required massage therapists to become licensed by the state under the Kansas State Board of Nursing, and would have established a Massage Therapy Advisory Committee to advise the board.

Jean Robinson is ABMP’s director of government relations. Contact her at