GR on the Road: DE, WA, NO, CA, OR, and more!

Your Government Relations Director Laura Embleton has been on the road since the beginning of 2019! She started off the year with a 10-day nationwide trip, starting in Delaware to discuss the proposed public health rules with the drafter of the rules. Then it was on to Seattle, Washington, where she attended the Washington board meeting and worked with them on their rule-making process. This board meeting was only to discuss the rules they have been working on since 2017. The Washington board made it through all the rules with the intent of finalizing them at the meeting on May 5, at which point that will be sent through the legislative process. From there she traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to continue meeting with the coalition regarding a licensing bill, and finally to Indianapolis, Indiana, to check in while they continued to work on their rules.

Laura then attended the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards (FARB) conference in New Orleans, where she caught up on regulatory law and trends around the country, in addition to meeting with many massage therapy board members who were also in attendance.

In February, she traveled to Sacramento to attend the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology meeting, where they were discussing the Sunset Bill that is coming up at the legislature this year. She then met with legislative staff to discuss both the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) Sunset and the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) Sunset legislation. She wrapped up the month with another trip to Minnesota to discuss the particulars of a Minnesota licensing bill.

March was also busy and started with a trip to Indianapolis to work on massage therapy rules. In explanation, Indiana passed a licensing act in 2017. The act is effective 183 days after the rules are promulgated. They were still working on the rules during Laura’s trip. That same week, Laura headed to Seattle to the Washington Board to continue their rule-making process and comment on various issues in their rules, such as continuing education and licensure by endorsement.

Laura ended up in Salem, Oregon, in mid-March, where she worked with that board on rule making regarding continuing education. The last week of March she was back in Minneapolis for the final discussion regarding the proposed bill. Then she was off to Las Vegas for the Nevada Board of Massage Therapy meeting, where they are continually trying to address the issues of prostitution, human trafficking, and what they as a board can do. We will continue to work with the Nevada Board to discuss these issues, what can be addressed through the criminal code, and what massage therapy boards can do.

April started off with a visit to Oakland, California, for the CAMTC meeting. We continue to push for licensure in California and talk frequently on the record about the current state of “mandatory voluntary certification.” Laura went back to Washington for their special meeting regarding rule-making in Olympia, WA. Finally, the rules are finished. We don’t agree with everything, but feel it was good to be there to offer suggestions and perspectives. Now, this process will go to the legislature.

After one day at home, Laura headed back to Indianapolis for a special meeting to finish up that rule-making process. It is now out of the board’s hands and off to the Professional Licensing Agency (PLA) for the formal state process. We expect this will take another 12­­–18 months. After the rules are promulgated at the state level, the licensing bill will take effect. Anyone who is certified will roll into licensure. If a therapist is not certified by that time, they will need to have 625 hours of education, pass the MBLEx, and pass a criminal background check. We will message our Indiana members once that is clarified. From Indiana she headed to Raleigh, North Carolina, to attend the April meeting of the Massage and Bodywork Board.

Laura is finishing off April with a trip to Baltimore to discuss how massage therapy boards can enact legislation that doesn’t punish lawfully practicing massage therapists. This meeting came about after we opposed a bill this year in Maryland. Laura and the board chair had conversations and concluded that a meeting of stakeholders was in order to hear everyone’s concerns. She is ending the week with a trip to Tampa for the Florida Massage Therapy Board meeting to discuss bills moving through the legislature and see what the board’s thoughts are about the Orchid Day Spa (see our release regarding the raids here).

Trends we are seeing this year include more attempts to regulate human trafficking through the Massage Practice Act. While ABMP acknowledges that human trafficking intersects on the fringes of massage therapy, we believe that licensed massage therapists alone should not shoulder the financial burden of countering these illicit businesses. It is a nuanced argument. Massage boards and massage therapists should work with local law enforcement, educating them about what massage therapy is and what it is not. We believe the best way to stop the illicit businesses is to revise criminal codes with felonies for owners and managers who hire non-licensed individuals to perform “massage.” In addition, we believe landlords should be charged with felonies for renting to illicit businesses. Alabama revised their criminal codes last year, with a small change to the Massage Practice Act (requiring criminal background checks) and, by all accounts, the criminal code changes have had a big impact on illicit businesses. This is how it should work.

We also see bills increasing/decreasing hours of education required for licensure, decreasing CE credits required for renewal, some deregulation (mostly on the cosmetology and barbering side), some employment law issues, and some basic non-substantive tweaking of massage practice acts.