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League Testimony on the Oversight of Massage Businesses Focuses on How Regulatory System Serves Cities, Law Enforcement and Business Owners

May 3, 2018
The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee convened an informational hearing on April 30 to discuss the regulation of the massage therapy industry. 
The hearing covered the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC), cities local land use authority and the persistence of human trafficking. Ron Bates, a former mayor and council member from Los Alamitos, League president, and Pico Rivera city manager, testified before the committee as the League’s representative to CAMTC.
The hearing provided an opportunity for Bates to highlight the ways in which CAMTC works with the League and the California Police Chiefs Association. He testfied that there have been more productive lines of communication between the organizations on issues related to business operations, public safety and land use.
“The laws the Legislature has passed with respect to massage therapy have assisted cities in the provision and regulation of safe and therapeutic massage to their residents in their respective cities,” said Bates.
In the past few years, the League and CAMTC have worked collaboratively in a variety of capacities. The League and CAMTC are encouraging cities to update and refine their ordinances to be consistent with state law. CAMTC senior staff have presented at League conferences and to the League’s City Attorneys’ Department. In his testimony, Bates also complimented CAMTC’s massage therapy school certification process.
Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), chair of the committee, as well as some of the individuals representing massage therapists, expressed criticism about local land use regulations such as conditional use permits and other requirements. The senator expressed that he believes that massage businesses should be regulated in the same manner as other professions such as chiropractors and acupuncturists. However, it must be noted that the professions under that section of the law must be licensed by the State of California and have an associated state board that regulates the industry. CAMTC is a private nonprofit association that offers a voluntary certificate that massage therapists can chose to pursue or not.
The hearing also covered human trafficking and sexual exploitation. A representative from Polaris, a global organization dedicated to combating human trafficking, gave startling testimony on the volume of human trafficking in California. Rochelle Keyhan, director of Disruption Strategies with Polaris, referenced a study that found that approximately 9,000 illicit massage establishments operate in the nation. This is approximately $2.5 billion in annual revenue. She told the committee that San Francisco and Los Angeles are the two largest ports of entry for people being trafficked in the nation.
Next Steps
The League will provide additional information in the coming weeks on massage business regulation and local land use authority. Cities should take Sen. Hill’s comments seriously that he is interested in making changes to local land use authority regulating massage therapy businesses in communities.

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