House Bill 543 was introduced on January 11, 2012. As proposed, the bill would amend several different Virginia laws, including the regulation of massage therapists. Massage therapy is currently a certified profession under the Board of Nursing. The certification includes title protection but not a well-defined scope of practice. HB 543 would define the scope of practice for massage therapists and create a mandatory practice act. Anyone practicing massage therapy would have to be licensed by the State Board of Nursing. Current state certified massage therapists in good standing would not be affected and would automatically be licensed by the board. The requirements for licensure would be the same as the current certification requirements except that the Board would accept the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (http://www.fsmtb.org/) in addition to the exams offered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. HB 543 provides an exemption for modalities intended to affect the human energy field. ABMP has contacted the sponsor of the bill and the AMTA Virginia chapter, who has backed the bill, with two concerns we have with the current version of the bill.
- Modalities often exempt from massage therapy regulation, such as practitioners providing movement re-education, structural integrators, and reflexologists, are currently not included in the exemptions.
- The current version of the bill does not include a pre-emption clause eliminating the local regulation of massage therapists. If massage therapists are regulated at the state level, there is no need to regulate practitioners at the local level.