Recap of April 30 Hearing on CA Massage Therapy Regulation

The California Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee held an informational hearing on April 30, 2018. The hearing primarily addressed local government regulation, the school approval process, and human trafficking. 

At the hearing, California massage therapists discussed in detail the negative impact that the patchwork of local regulation has on therapists and their practices. Many panel speakers also spoke to this issue, as well as numerous members of the public during public comment. Specific issues addressed included the varied cost of local regulation across the state, the fact that many if not most cities are requiring California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) certification to practice (what we like to call "mandatory voluntary certification"), and the inconsistent local regulatory requirements throughout the state. At the end of the hearing the California League of Cities defended its ability to regulate locally and to charge what is necessary to cover its costs of regulation. Senator Jerry Hill pushed back on this after recognizing the issues that California massage therapists are facing at the local level, and said that the state may be looking at statewide establishment licensing to level the playing field. 

Rochelle Keyhan, the Polaris Project's Director of Disruption Strategies and a key author of Polaris' report on "Human Trafficking In Illicit Massage Businesses," talked about the report and how to address illicit massage businesses. We were heartened to hear Ms. Keyhan emphasize that efforts to combat human trafficking should target business entities, not individual massage therapists. It is our hope that the committee heard her comments and can look at reasonable regulation that does not overburden massage therapists.

CAMTC staff presented on CAMTC's school approval process. After the presentation, Senator Janet Nguyen asked pointed questions about what CAMTC is doing about 2017 bills SB314 and SB315. SB314 required CAMTC to issue communications in a variety of languages; however, thus far communications are still issued only in English, and Senator Nguyen voiced her displeasure. She also had a number of questions about the status of students who have graduated from either denied or pending schools, and the discussion got very heated. Senator Nguyen also indicated that she is frustrated by the fact that since a person can only take the MBLEx exam if he or she has graduated from an "approved school," and at this point the only "approved" schools in California are CAMTC-approved schools, students who have graduated from schools which are not CAMTC-approved cannot take the MBLEx. CAMTC essentially responded that it is the MBLEx, not CAMTC, that is the problem. A representative of FSMTB testified towards the end of the hearing that FSMTB is willing to work with CAMTC to resolve this issue.

Laura Embleton, ABMP Government Relations Director, testified about ABMP's support of uniform statewide licensing with a generous grandfathering clause, issues concerning students from denied and pending schools, the lack of transparency in policy making at CAMTC, the length of time it takes for CAMTC to review applications and approve schools, "mandatory voluntary certification" and the problems presented by local regulation, the importance of grandfathering provisions in city ordinances requiring CAMTC certification, and CAMTC's policy that it will no longer accept foreign transcripts as of February 2018. She also addressed the issue that while there are technically four tests that a person could take to qualify for CAMTC certification, the MBLEx is really the only option for the majority of therapists.

ABMP also submitted written comments that can be found at this link, and is working with the state legislature's Business and Professions Committee staff to continue to provide information to the senators. We encourage you to continue to send letters in to help inform legislative staff about your experiences with regulation in California. Please send them to your state legislator, whom you can find at this link, and Laura Embleton at and she will forward them to the committee. It is important to speak up if you want to let the state know how regulation is affecting you.

If you would like to watch a video of the April 30 hearing please click here (scroll down to April 30/Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee). 

If you have any questions for Laura Embleton, please email her at


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