ABMP Submits Commentary to Help Save the Alaska Board of Massage Therapists

ABMP submitted written commentary to the Alaska legislature regarding Senate Standing Committee Report 4, which would reverse an executive order that seeks to dissolve the Alaska Board of Massage Therapists. We support this legislation and invite you to read our comments and write to your elected officials. Find your legislators here.

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) provides professional liability insurance, business resources, professional publications, and legislative and regulatory advocacy for more than 81,000 members nationwide.

ABMP is writing to express its support for Senate Standing Committee Report 4 (SSCR 4), which would disapprove Executive Order No. 127 (EO 127) that aims to dissolve the Alaska Board of Massage Therapists (Board) and transfer its functions to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED). ABMP believes the Board must be protected and remain independent, with autonomous administrative power to maintain effective and efficient massage therapy regulation.

While we understand Governor Mike Dunleavy’s reasoning behind EO 127 is to make state government as efficient as possible, eliminating the massage board is inconsistent with the 2023 Board of Massage Therapists Sunset Review performed by the DCCED. The conclusion of the report states: “the board operated in the public’s interest by conducting its meetings in an effective manner; and actively amending regulations to address statutory changes, improve the licensing process, and enhance public safety. […] We recommend the legislature extend the board’s termination date six years, to June 30, 2030” (page 1). If efficiency is the goal of EO 127, why eliminate a board that was determined last year to be effective?

ABMP believes independent boards are invested in the professions and communities they serve, strengthened and emboldened by the common interest to elevate their respective industry. The advantage of the massage board is that there are five massage therapists experienced with the profession who uphold best practices and update regulation as needed. If the Board is terminated, duties will be reallocated onto state staff who do not understand the massage profession, creating confusion and backlogging the DCCED. We question how transferring the Board’s functions to the DCCED could possibly improve productivity and efficiency.

Independent boards are made up of peers entrusted with the duty to protect the best interests of their licensees. With this lack of oversight, the DCCED could choose to increase massage licensing fees to offset additional administrative duties required to tackle surplus responsibilities (such as massage therapists’ fingerprinting requirement, which is a provision for license renewal). Ceding financial control and decision-making to the DCCED would be a disservice to massage therapists, and administrative efficiency would not improve.

The Board performs more work than a typical regulatory agency because of the industry-specific issues affecting the massage therapy profession, in particular, illegal activity and human trafficking. The Board is a partner in the fight against human trafficking while respecting licensed massage therapists who are not engaging in nefarious acts. A lot of massage board funding is allocated to investigate illicit activity to ensure only vetted, licensed professionals are practicing on the public in the interest of consumer safety. We speculate whether the DCCED is equipped with proficient knowledge to take on this area of expertise. The current massage board is fully trained to recognize “red flags” associated with human trafficking to reduce crime.

EO 127 must be reversed for the benefit of the massage therapy community and the safety of the public. The Alaska Board of Massage Therapists is successful, using best practices to regulate massage therapy to advance the profession and protect the public from nefarious activity. ABMP believes transferring its functions to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development would result in a loss of massage therapy knowledge, experience, and efficiency—the opposite intended action of the executive order. ABMP fully supports SSCR 4 for these reasons.

Thank you for considering our opinions.