SB 731 Approved by Legislature!

I have two sculptor friends, one living in Albuquerque, the other on Long Island, who both toiled for 30 years before finally achieving significant commercial success. I kid them about “Becoming an overnight success at age 55.” That’s about how the progress on SB 731 feels, I’m happy finally to report. As many loyal ABMP California members know, we have been trying to gain consistent statewide regulation for six years. Substantial progress in 2007 came to a grinding halt when the final committee considering the bill put it “on suspense” just about a year ago. “Suspense” status is somewhere between purgatory and death, clearly closer to the latter. Fewer than 10% of bills going on suspense ever see the light of day. Our only frail reed of hope was that SB 731 went on “suspense” not because of its merits/demerits; rather it was simply caught in the web of larger political forces. Now, in slightly less than two weeks, SB 731 was amended and moved out of Assembly Appropriations (August 7), was voted favorably upon by the Assembly (August 13), and was concurred in (approving the Assembly amendments) by the Senate on August 19. Lobbyists for ABMP, AMTA-CA, and the California Chiropractic Association plus yours truly were all actively engaged button-holing legislators and their staff members, urging a “Yes” vote, during the lead-up to the critical Assembly vote. (The California Physical Therapy Association continued to work against the bill.) The bill is now ready to be transmitted to Governor Schwarzenegger. The legislature is holding all bills until the state budget impasse is addressed, but expects to send these bills to the Governor later this month. The Governor will have until September 30 to decide which bills to sign, which to veto. Our government relations team in Sacramento deserves great credit for pulling this rabbit out of the hat. Kathryn Scott and Judy Wolen of Capitol Partners have stuck with ABMP for the past five years, patiently building relationships and trust and listening to suggestions that could strengthen the bill. The end product, imperfect as most legislation is, indeed is stronger than earlier bill versions. It incorporates input from local government organizations and two state government departments as well as diverse massage voices. Not everyone from the massage therapy community loves the bill, but a recent (July 2008) survey of 5,300 California ABMP members uncovered 12 members supporting SB 731 for each one opposing the legislation. Those remaining unenthusiastic can take solace from the fact that pursuit of certification under SB 731 is voluntary. If you do not feel hassled or budget-depleted by local government massage licensing, you can keep operating under the status quo. For many members, one-stop-shopping, cost-effective certification valid throughout the state will prove attractive. While this reported progress is sweet, the job is not done. Even though conversations with the Governor’s staff have begun, it is far from certain that Governor Schwarzenegger will sign it into law this September. You can help improve the odds that he will sign the bill by undertaking one simple task: write a letter to the Governor and get it to him no later than September 3. Here’s a link with detailed instructions and some suggested letter content choices. We have swiftly made huge progress. Please let’s each do our best right now to communicate with the Governor’s office so we can at least say, “We did everything we could to make it happen.” Twenty minutes now seems a small price to pay to secure a new approach to regulation that could save you hundreds of dollars and precious time in the years ahead. Bob Benson Chairman, ABMP