CAMTC: Under the Gun, ABMP Says “Declare Victory and Move On”

I’ve spent the past day or so reviewing the CAMTC Sunset Review Report…at over 200 pages, it’s a narrative of the who, what, where, when, and why of the organization, which is now in its fifth year.

California operates differently from the other regulated states. The CAMTC is not officially a state regulatory board. It is a non-profit organization, offering voluntary certification. It is just my opinion that this is a big improvement over the previous state of affairs there, when there was nothing at all, other than each municipality regulating as they chose, which more often that not meant that legitimate massage therapists were classified along with sex workers and treated the same way. I’ve heard horror stories from therapists who have in the past been made to take a test for STDs, along with paying money to each individual town in which one was practicing. Someone doing outcalls may have been looking at a separate license and another financial burden in many different places. The CAMTC aimed to put a stop to this by getting it into the statutes that if you had the CAMTC certification, you were allowed to skip all the local hoops. It was a very hard battle.

During the Sunset hearing process last week, ABMP Chairman Bob Benson testified. Benson served the CAMTC Board for four years, including a term as the initial Vice Chair. He attended 51 of the 52 meetings held during his tenure. His complete testimony may be read here. Benson’s opening remarks referenced the Vietnam war, in speaking to the present state of affairs at the CAMTC, and he urged the organization to “Declare victory and move on.” I have heard from several veterans who were very upset about that analogy and feel that Benson’s remarks showed a great disrespect for the people who served in Vietnam and a cheapening of those who lost their lives there. I have met Benson personally on several occasions and I don’t think he would intentionally insult veterans, but I have to agree it was not the best choice for comparison.

Beyond that opening faux pas, Benson brings up the following points about the weaknesses he perceives in the CAMTC. One is that CEO Ahmos Netanel is wearing too many hats. There is no controller or operations officer or chief financial officer; Netanel is doing all three jobs, apparently. There’s no doubt he’s a busy man; I run into him myself at national meetings.

Benson also points out other problems: the unwieldy size of the Board–20 people (although currently there are only 19); the fact that there is no central office, which leads to communication and control challenges; a lack of adequate information on the website and delays in getting things posted; 5 years in operation and as of yet no customer satisfaction surveys; a lack of data on how much the CAMTC is paying their management company; a lack of salary standards, and unsatisfactory performance metrics for the dissemination about applicants and certificate holders.He also actually refers to their plan to start approving establishments and massage schools as “delusional.”

Benson isn’t one to complain without offering a solution, so his suggestions are the transition of this organization into a formal state regulatory board, as the other regulated states have; to substitute mandatory licensing for voluntary certification; to use 2015 as a transitional year; and to honor CAMTC certificates and allow holders to convert them to a state license on their expiration date without jumping through any further hoops.

I contacted Ahmos Netanel and gave him the opportunity to respond to Benson’s comments. His reply below is verbatim:

In his comments during the March 10, 2014 legislative Joint Oversight Hearing: Sunset Review of CAMTC, Bob Benson, acting as the voice of ABMP (Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals), advocates for dismantling the current statewide certification program and instituting a state board for regulating massage therapy under the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Bob Benson is certainly dedicated to the massage profession; however, he is a minority voice.  In fact, no CAMTC Board member has ever expressed a position similar to his.

The CAMTC Board has accomplished a great deal.  Yes, as with any new organization, there is room for improvement.  However, in a very short time, by any standard, we have put a statewide infrastructure in place to work closely with police and local government, and there is no doubt that consumers can have confidence that a CAMTC certified professional is educated to safely provide care. 

CAMTC has done more than simply oversee the certification of qualified massage therapy professionals. CAMTC has initiated work with local authorities, local elected officials, professional organizations, other stakeholders and the Legislature to modify its enabling law to correct issues and oversights. Presently, the Sunset review process implemented by the Legislature allows for the substantive amendments needed to control illegal massage parlors.  In doing so, we want to be respectful of the work being done by legitimate massage providers and not return to the era of onerous patchwork enforcement— the kind of control that simply assumes massage is adult entertainment.

CAMTC also investigates and un-approves schools as part of ensuring that certification candidates met strict educational requirements.  Ironically, the state bureau which regulates private post-secondary schools, now BPPE, was allowed to sunset between July 2007 and January 2009.  The lack of an official school oversight body during that time had a significant negative impact on the massage industry and the safety of the public.  Stepping in since 2010, CAMTC, with only minimal resources, has been able to un-approve 47 massage schools that were not meeting minimum standards for massage education and we hope to do more beginning in 2015.

In the ongoing and important effort to eradicate illegal massage parlors, CAMTC is asking the Legislature for the authority to provide statewide registration and investigation of massage establishments.  Many local jurisdictions lack the resources to effectively stem the tide of these illicit businesses and CAMTC is up to the challenge. 

The problems raised by the police chiefs and the cities are our problems, too.  Their complaints and concerns are issues we are addressing with great success in many parts of California.  For example, our training programs have been attended by more than 100 local agencies. And many cities – impressed by our organization – now require CAMTC certification. 

The proliferation of illegal massage parlors is bigger than massage therapy alone, but we are an integral part of the solution.  We propose:

  • Raising educational standards
  • Establishing a registration program for establishments
  • Expending local government control over the use of massage as a subterfuge for prostitution

A state board under DCA has merit. It also has significant drawbacks, including starting a new entity from scratch. It is likely that a new state board would take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to become fully operational.  The cost in terms of time and state resources is not warranted when CAMTC is already in place and functioning successfully. 

Further, a state board simply cannot function as efficiently as a private entity like CAMTC.  Consider, as was discussed on March 10th in the Joint Oversight hearing for the DCA, that the current time for disciplinary actions by DCA boards is 540 days, despite the target of 180 days.  Just scheduling a hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings takes approximately 200 days (testimony by the Legislative Analyst’s Office). Furthermore, the cost to discipline or revoke a state license is over ten times greater than what it costs CAMTC  to discipline or revoke a certificate holder.  CAMTC provides a high level of due process to certificate holders at a lower cost and in fraction of the time that it takes a state board to do the same.

Whatever the merits of moving to a state board under the DCA, it is not going to happen by magic nor will it happen overnight.  It will be a long, costly process. And dismantling CAMTC won’t benefit California consumers or those individuals practicing massage therapy in California.  Rather, it will leave a gaping chasm for both.  

Legitimate massage providers create jobs, promote a healthy lifestyle, and enhance communities.  We cannot go back to the antiquated and oppressive patchwork regulation of the past.  It won’t solve the problem of illicit massage parlors or correct any of the other issues about which cities are concerned.  Only working together – CAMTC alongside cities – can we protect both the public and legitimate massage providers. 

CAMTC is proud of its successes and we look forward to working with the police chiefs, the local communities and Bob himself to do great things for the massage therapy profession and the public.


Ahmos Netanel

Chief Executive Officer

California Massage Therapy Council

I do not wish to minimize any of the accomplishments and hard work of the CAMTC. I applaud what they have done. However, I’m in agreement with Benson on this one; I’d prefer to see them with mandatory licensing instead of voluntary certification. It won’t be the answer to every problem; it never is. But I do urge them to make the transition, and hopefully, that can be accomplished without the gaping chasm Netanel mentioned.




15 Replies to “CAMTC: Under the Gun, ABMP Says “Declare Victory and Move On””

  1. It’s interesting that Michigan’s licensing law was passed at the same time that CAMTC’s law was originally enacted. Both went into effect in January 2009. As of 29 November 2014, MI will finally be requiring all massage providers to be licensed. Such is the pace of state entities.

    The process of sunset hearings and potential legislation to continue CAMTC is just that, no more no less. California does not just create state boards, even when a prior agency is allowed to sunset. Creation of a state massage therapy board would require its own process of sunrise hearings, starting in the 2015-2016 legislative session at the earliest. Since a practice act absolutely requires a scope of practice, opposition to such scope, as occurred in the past, could be expected from the Chiropractic and Physical Therapy professions. Creation of a new board would also have to overcome legislative and gubernatorial reluctance to create new state boards. An enabling law would be in effect at the earliest in 2017 and that requires substantial optimism. Even though a board operates by collecting fees, the authorization for a board to use such fees has to be part of the governor’s budget. The time from enactment of a licensing law until initiation of licensing tends to be at least a couple of years. We are looking at 2019 at the earliest, with a return to local regulation of massage in the interim without CAMTC.

    Even with a licensing board, it is likely that, once gaining back the powers, local agency opposition would kill anything beyond practitioner licensing, meaning that the local agencies would be able to set zoning, conditional use permits, and facility requirements for massage establishments without restriction. The legislative sessions ends with August, it then being up to the governor, and this being the second year of a two-year legislative cycle (no carry-over bills). Interesting times.

  2. Though I have been a licensed massage practitioner here in Washington State since 1997 I spent the previous twenty years of my professional life as a commissioned police officer. The majority of my time in law enforcement was spent working as an investigator and/or as an investigations supervisor. Since early in 2008 I have dedicated myself to understanding the influences of illicit massage on our profession, including unlicensed practice, prostitution and human trafficking. Though I live and work near Seattle I have focused much of my efforts to understand these issues on the west coast, comparing Washington’s approach and results to Oregon and California’s efforts to move our profession forward in those states as well.

    If we are simply talking about results I am personally appalled by what I have seen occur in California in recent years. Though our state continues to struggle with issues around unlicensed practice and sexual services being offered in businesses that represent themselves as legitimate massage facilities, we pale in comparison to the sordid landscape that exists in California. And to be clear, the problem there has gotten worse and not better in recent years.

    Though statistics regarding arrests for prostitution under the guise of massage probably can be found, they are generally difficult to sort out and somewhat unreliable in my view. They can simply tell you that local authorities are inattentive to the problem or that the active enforcement efforts are producing arrests, as opposed to results. Because of this I prefer to gather such data through more underground methods by monitoring websites where hobbyists, men who seek sexual massage, go to post reviews and find places to obtain such services. These sites are primarily and, with providing the largest sample of data.

    None the less, to validate the differences, let’s look at the number of businesses listed on both sites so we can better compare these three states. Currently lists 1,990 massage parlors in California, 194 in Washington and 9 in Oregon, while, a far more active site, lists 4,330 massage parlors in California, 306 in Washington and 31 in Oregon. Unlike arrests these numbers are generated by consumers, who refer to themselves as hobbyists, after all you see seeking sexual massage to some is merely a hobby, a recreational activity at the expense of our reputation.

    Though one might correctly argue there is a difference in population, California is about six times more populated than Washington or Oregon, as you can easily see the numbers still are not even close per-capita. If you haven’t already asked I’ll do it for you, why are there so few listings in Oregon? Simply put, Oregon, in my opinion, has their act together. Oregon’s massage board still holds on to the requirement that license applicants actually perform a massage in front of an examiner, more importantly they determined early on that an aggressive effort to go after illegal advertising would have value, and they assign an investigator to monitoring ads on sites like and I know this sounds trivial, but when considering the marketing strategies for these businesses they are largely limited to online advertising.

    Just in case you are wondering if there is simply a lack of demand for such services in Oregon let me help you out there as well. In 2010 Nightline ran a story on the active sex trade in Portland, referring to the city as Pornland, a story on KATU about this is still available at: What’s interesting is how much hobbyists complain about the lack of sexual massage in Oregon and the new industry that has come about in the $50.00 to $200.00 price point, where sexual massage exists in all three states. Believe it or not this price point for sexual services in Oregon is now occupied by lingerie modeling studios and some strip clubs.

    What Oregon is doing is working, and until we start modeling regulation after success and not failure we will continue to watch our colleagues in states like California argue for failed oversight and look like idiots in the process. Simply put, just remember the definition of insanity when wondering whether they need to take a fresh approach there. More years of doing the same thing over and over again won’t make it work.

    Thank you,

    Lavon Watson, L.M.P.

  3. Laura,
    Thank you for following our state’s situation.

    Your comment, “I’d prefer to see them with mandatory licensing instead of voluntary certification.” simplifies what can be done.

    When I became a therapist in 1988, I wondered the same thing, only to find out every time we have tried, we have had opposition from our colleagues in physical therapy and chiropractic. They don’t want us to be state licensed because if we are, it will cut into their financial piece of the pie regarding insurance billing. They have much larger lobbyists and deeper pockets and have fought us each time we’ve gone to Sacramento.

    I’m not sure what the solution is now, but I do know CAMTC has simplified it for many therapists who practice in multiple cities by having just the one certification.

  4. I agree with you Laura– and Bob Benson and the League of Cities– on transitioning to a mandatory massage licensing program administered by a state agency here in California.

    With all due respect to Ahmos and Keith, I would have more confidence in the following statement:”In the ongoing and important effort to eradicate illegal massage parlors, CAMTC is asking the Legislature for the authority to provide statewide registration and investigation of massage establishments. Many local jurisdictions lack the resources to effectively stem the tide of these illicit businesses and CAMTC is up to the challenge.” if CAMTC staff had been able to provide concrete answers to Committee Chair questions about the projected needed resources and cost of implementing such a voluntary registration program.


  5. ​​
    I feel that every state should be licensed and close the gaps that exist within
    ​legislation. ​There should be no voluntary option. Michigan left huge gaps that prostitution will fill and possible human trafficking. All modalities should fall under state licensing if we are putting our hands on clients. I am tired of seeing exemptions that leave openings for prostitution among other things.

  6. Laura, thank you for putting California massage therapy regulation in the national spotlight. With almost 50,000 CAMTC certified massage professionals, 200+ massage therapy schools, and a large general population embracing the benefits of massage therapy, what happens in California reverberates throughout the country. This likely explains the vested interest of the massage industry outside of California. In fact, 2 of the 19 CAMTC board members (on which I sit) reside in other states.

    Mandatory licensing seems like the perfect solution. After all, 44 other states do it. But listen to the state board delegates at any FSMTB meeting and the results of mandatory licensing vary from state-to-state: budget restrictions, enforcement issues, too much massage industry influence, not enough massage industry influence, onerous and expensive application requirements, etc. The success and effectiveness of state boards vary greatly.

    Closer to home, I’ve dealt with several departments under our California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Most operate in the same vein as airport security – suggest consumer confidence while actually doing very little. Take the Bureau of Private Post-Secondary Schools (BPPE). While well-intentioned, they simply don’t have the budget to hire the staff necessary to truly oversee all vocational schools in California. Schools fill out paperwork, mail in a check, and are “approved” – unlike nationally accredited schools which undergo rigorous processes, thorough audits, and regular site visits. People expect a stamp of approval from Consumer Affairs to mean something, but it doesn’t really.

    Recognizing this lack of oversight of the BPPE, the CAMTC took it upon itself to spend tens of thousands of dollars of its own (as an independent non-profit CAMTC does not use any state funds) to investigate massage therapy schools. To date, over 50 schools have been placed on a list of “transcripts not accepted as sole proof of education.” Investigations found schools selling transcripts, submitting incongruent hours, or simply operating far below the acceptable minimum educational standards. No other agency in California had the desire or budget to do this. Meanwhile, law enforcement up and down the state (and presumably other states) had accepted transcripts from these “schools” when issuing local permits under the former patchwork system of regulation.

    The BPPE was allowed to sunset for two years recently because the state recognized its enforcement issues. During that time, anyone could open a vocational school, including massage therapy, with absolutely no oversight. What a mess that created. To let CAMTC sunset would invite similar catastrophe.

    CAMTC operates well – five years of perfect audits, over seven months of operating reserves, clean applications turned around in less than two weeks, customer service issues handled within 24 hours, and many cities grateful for the assistance. All this and the CAMTC processes around 1,000 applications each month, more than many states process in a year.

    But the CAMTC can only do what the law dictates. In this case, SB731 is only a title act, voluntarily certifying and protecting the terms “Certified Massage Practitioner,” “Certified Massage Therapist,” and the like.

    The discontent of the opposition, certain California cities, stems from the part of the law that says any massage establishment employing 100% CAMTC certified massage professionals cannot be discriminated against and must be treated as other professionals. This part of the law resulted from the habit of local law enforcement to treat all “masseuses” – legitimate professionals or otherwise – as criminals, either relegating massage establishments to industrial areas or limiting them altogether through moratoriums.

    Law enforcement sought to cut out the cancer of illegitimate massage therapists with a machete rather than a scalpel. SB731 and the CAMTC have sought to treat legitimate massage therapists as professionals.

    CAMTC, the massage therapy community, and law enforcement all have the same goal – stop prostitution and human trafficking rings from operating under the guise of massage. These are problems as old as the ages with complicated solutions. I think the CAMTC has made great headway since the implementation of SB731 in 2009 and is on the right track. Mandatory licensing, a likely destination down the road, would derail the momentum at this time.

    For now, I believe the CAMTC needs to continue its dialogue with law enforcement to work together in solving common problems through an improved law that maintains the current direction of voluntary certification while closing loopholes of illicit establishments, providing more school oversight, raising standards, and, most importantly, dividing the conversation between those who’ve hijacked the term massage for their own nefarious purposes and legitimate massage therapists.

  7. I was terribly disappointed when I read this blog. I am sick and tired of the politics of massage. I can’t believe the mis information that was provided as testimony during the sunset hearing. I felt like a knife was plunged into the backs of everyone who has worked so hard to regulate and advance our profession in California.
    In my opinion given the constraints of the law the CAMTC has been tremendously successful and that it should be allowed to continue to operate and even given more power. The CAMTC is an extremely transparent and an efficiently run organization. In the past massage therapy regulation in California was a chaotic confusing expensive mess. Graduates of the AA degree program that I run were required to register as adult entertainers , take VD tests and pay exorbitant fees in each town that they worked in order to practice their trade. This is an insult for students who have dedicated two years to the study of this profession to be treated like this.
    We should be talking about strengthening this law by eliminating the lower tier raising the standards of education and requiring an exam for certification. We also need to close down all of the diploma for cash factories. Eventually I would love state licensure but as others have alluded to this will be a
    long, slow and painful process. Eliminating the CAMTC will plunge us back into chaos. Lets go forward not backwards.

  8. I too am terribly disappointed to read the comments of someone who has a personal vendetta against the CAMTC, who stands to profit from deregulation of massage, and for you Laura to support that. There is no plan on what the state will do if the CAMTC is disbanded. During the interim, the floodgates will open to prostitution businesses and we will be back to the bad old days of paying exhorbitant fees and have onerous regulations town by town.

    It’s easy to be in a regulated state and say, “just get licensure.” In calling North Carolina’s massage regulatory office, I had to make 3 calls, and I ended up having to leave a message on voice mail. This is not the kind of customer service we want for questions and issues related to massage. Currently when an individual can’t get a CAMTC certification, they end up going to the city and easily get a permit there. City licenses have been found in many a prostitution bust around the state. They claim they don’t have the budget or staff to handle basic inspections of offices now, that will only become worse with the burden of trying to keep track of those seeking licenses, approving schools, weeding out bogus transcript mills, and/or doing any kind of background check on those with a criminal record.

    There is a specific vetting process by the CAMTC, they’ve created an efficient organization that works with close ties to the police and legislators. The best thing that could happen in CA right now is to A) strengthen the law we have, B) make some inroads to compromise for the cities and towns to have some control on closing illicit businesses and regulate some of the land use issues, and C) keep the CAMTC and allow them to do inspections.

  9. Every regulatory body has things it could be doing better. That includes CAMTC and it also includes boards under the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). As it turned out, the DCA had their legislative review also on 10 March. A video of that review is on YouTube at

    The corresponding background sheet for the DCA’s review is at

    They are both worth a look. At about 34:30 into that review video, Helen Kerstein from the Legislative Analyst’s Office testifies as to times required for formal discipline by DCA boards. The target time is 540 days (for all boards) and many boards are substantially exceeding that target. The handout Kerstein mentions in her testimony is at

    Note that the times given in the table on page 3 (file page 4) are times PAST the 540 day target. Also note on the prior page that the time for a board to schedule a hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) runs at about 192 days (mentioned in the testimony as about 200 days). Kerstein’s handout summarizes the process.

    The DCA has also taken a lot of flack for its new board IT system. That is brought up in terms of th “December meltdown” both in the hearing video and the background analysis. It was also highlighted in articles in the Sacramento Bee.

    It is not a happy thought to add a need for local agencies to have special access to this system as further IT development. Not at this time. This is something CAMTC already provides and has plans to improve.

    There are multiple advantages to having a budget and staffing independent of the state, among them being organizational agility. CAMTC has an ability to learn and respond, within the limitations of its enabling law, far faster than state entities. What we want to be sure we don’t do is snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It is all too possible.

  10. Exactly how would ABMP profit from the deregulation of massage, and WHO is supporting that? No one that I see. Benson is not recommending deregulation. He is recommending becoming an official, regulatory board like the rest of the country has, or already has in progress, with the exception of two states. I’d love to hear exactly how ABMP would profit from that, and who has a personal vendetta? What misinformation was provided? Since I was not present, could only depend on the 200 page report from your organization and the written transcript of the testimony, I am in the dark. Explain yourselves instead of making insinuations and innuendos, because I don’t know what you are talking about, and most of my readers don’t, either.

    I stated above in the blog that I applaud what the CAMTC has accomplished, and that it was certainly preferable to the previous state of affairs, and have not minimized that at all. The desire to see them get on the same official regulatory board status with mandatory licensing, along with the rest of the country, saving the two states that have no current regulatory plans, is a reasonable desire. Lobbyists, attorneys, and legislators working together could accomplish this task, and what will be served by delaying setting that process in motion? It sounds as if some of you are suggesting that CA just be allowed to do its own thing in perpetuity. How is delaying that transition going to make it any better or any easier, say five or even ten years from now? It seems like delaying that transition would make things worse instead of better.

  11. Laura you may not realize that when CAMTC staff originally submitted the original version of the Sunset Review Report November 1, 2013 that the report contained numerous errors –particularly significant in the data tables.

    For example I had inquired to Keith about a couple of figures listed in the table on page 81 titled “Certification Population for 2009 through September 2013.”
    I noted that having a lower number of inactive CCMP (Conditionally Certified Massage Providers) in 2013 as compared to 2012 did not make logical sense ’cause no new applicants were accepted for CCMP after December 31, 2011. The figure listed for 2012 was 709 and the figure listed for 2013 was 708.

    CAMTC staff submitted a revised corrected version in late December and you can note that the figures listed for 2012 now read 373 and for 2013 read 460. There are many other figures that had to be revised.

    In assessing the accuracy of the revised figures, I did some of my own calculations. Using the data listed in the Table on p 82 for year 2012 the total number of initial applications approved was 11, 454 But in looking at the public database, and using last certificate issued in 2012 (#40854) and subtracting last certificate issued in 2011 (#29070) the number of certificates issued in 2012 was 11,784 which looks like 330 more certificates issued than applications approved.

    I do not mean to jump to conclusions—but after the investigation in Florida re:selling of transcripts by an individual for $10,000-15,000 each—my little brain cogs immediately spit out “whoa a possible $3 million to $5 million in one year for 300+ certificates—that is a lot of temptation.” But I am not saying that anyone has succumbed to that temptation.

    Again logically what would make sense is that in any given period, the number of applications approved would be slightly greater than the number of certificates issued –not the other way around. This was true for 2010 when using the same methodology as above, CAMTC approved 15,317 applications and issued 15,290 certificates—so 27 more applications approved than certificates issued. Just what we would expect.

    Joe Bob references the clean audits. If the audits are “clean” meaning no findings, why the discrepancy in 2012? Are the revised numbers in the Sunset Report still incorrect? The audit report for 2013 is on the Agenda for the paradoxically postponed CAMTC Board originally scheduled for March 20. Perhaps an explanatory note about this discrepancy will be included in staff report(s).


  12. Thank you, Bernadette; Benson’s testimony transcript had mentioned that the original report was fraught with errors and had been redone. As a textbook author with editors that I could not live without, I personally know how easy it is for things to fall through the cracks and for mistakes to be made, in spite of good intentions and best efforts, so I chose not to pick on them for that because the report had been corrected. I well imagine that when several (or many) people are contributing to a report, that problem becomes magnified.

    In the interest of disclosure, I am personally acquainted with Benson, as well as current CAMTC board members, Joe Bob Smith, Keith Eric Grant, Mark Dixon, Jean Robinson, and Judi Calvert, all of whom I consider to be people of integrity, and I am certainly not accusing anyone, including those whom I do not personally know, of doing anything illegal. If the numbers don’t match up, perhaps the finger should be pointed at administrative failures on the part of the management company; I don’t know.

    Benson sent me a copy of a letter that he sent to the Sunset Review Committee as a followup, and gave me permission to quote or copy in its entirety. I have chosen the latter:

    March 24, 2014
    Assemblymember Susan Bonilla
    Chair, Sunset Review Committee
    Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee
    Legislative Office Building, Room 383
    Sacramento, CA 95814

    Dear Ms. Bonilla:

    Thank you for the opportunity to testify before your committee March 10. I appreciated the attentiveness of members during the comments by the panel of which I was a part.

    The hearing itself featured a yeasty exchange of diverse opinions and, at least within the massage therapy community, a subsequent vigorous exchange of views.

    ABMP has carefully considered the various perspectives voiced and wishes to take this opportunity to add follow-on comments.

    Our fundamental perspective is unshaken. We celebrate the transitional contributions CAMTC has made to screening and recognizing 45,000+ qualified massage therapists and identifying these qualified individuals to
    public consumers. These service providers have been brought out of the shadows into the light; there is no good case to be made to revert back to pre-2009 practices of highly diverse local regulation – too often
    punitive, discriminatory and sometimes even demeaning. We argue instead for a transition from private, nonprofit CAMTC administering voluntary certification to a state massage board administering mandatory

    Acknowledgement of transition progress aside, it became clear over the past year, culminating in the March 10 hearing, that numerous representatives of local government are frustrated by perceptions that their hands are tied by SB 731 in addressing a separate problem: prostitution. It is our belief that local government has much more enforcement power under SB 731 to regulate establishments not exclusively employing CAMTC certified massage therapists; we believe that perceived growth of prostitution activities reflects more a lack
    of law enforcement will and/or insufficient allocation of resources. Nevertheless, numerous mayors and police chiefs perceive that SB 731 language unfairly constrains their enforcement activities.

    Accordingly, ABMP would be pleased to work with Committee staff, the League of California Cities, and the California Police Chiefs Association to reformulate statute language to re-balance the delineation of
    municipality enforcement authority alongside legitimate massage therapist rights to practice in settings similar to what consumers might expect when visiting a dentist, a physical therapist, a yoga studio, a
    chiropractor or other health and wellness professional.

    I was personally struck by the compelling testimony of Helen McDonagh on behalf of Massage Envy, pointing to the 100 Massage Envy clinics in California opened since SB 731 was enacted in 2008, in locations similar to those described in the paragraph above. Many of these clinics – which employ 5,000 therapists and serve over 2,000,000 Californians annually – would not have been able to open had SB 731 not become law; many cities either froze out all massage establishments or herded them into zones with pornography shops and other X-rated activities. These 100 Massage Envy clinics – and perhaps as many more opened since 2008 by other quality owners – operate in a totally above board manner, providing a valued consumer service. As Ms. McDonagh said, in drafting revised regulations, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”

    As I listened to the Local Government and Law Enforcement panel speakers, it became clear to me that many of them are uncomfortable relating to a private, non-profit organization that is not part of state
    government. They are reluctant to share information. They lack trust in CAMTC because it is different. They clearly would prefer to deal with a state government agency. In this case, perception becomes reality.

    In addition, law enforcement officials find frustrating the voluntary aspect of CAMTC certification alongside alternative city regulation (licensing or registration) of massage therapists who elect not to become CAMTC
    certified. So long as California has two categories of therapists (certified and not-certified) and two categories of massage establishments (solely employing CAMTC-certified therapists or not … with the continuing possibility that leakage from 100% certified can occur from the first group), law enforcement is a nightmare. This observation goes to the heart of why ABMP believes a transition to mandatory licensing of
    massage therapists will best serve the California public.

    We are pragmatists. That’s why my testimony included recommendations for a transition period from CAMTC to state licensing. Subsequent public comments, some by CAMTC board members, argue that an effective transition would require even more time than I recommended. Without question, alleged wait times measured in years for DCA decisions on applications and disciplinary matters for other professions are concerning. I’m inclined to regard such troubling statistics as being related to state budget challenges and the
    slow emergence of BPPE out of a two-year school regulatory vacuum, but this potential concern should be addressed up front.

    One critical transition aspect, which I did describe in my testimony, would be a seamless transition, without any additional hoops or hurdles, for the 45,000+ individuals from a CAMTC certification to a state license.
    These individuals have met Department of Justice and FBI clearance requirements, including any subsequent arrest notifications, and have had their massage education vetted. Please design a transition scheme that will recognize either the CAMTC credential or a state license over a 24-month period, thereby spreading out the administrative burden rather than fostering a need to screen 45,000 applications at once and then have to repeat the exercise every two years hence.

    Thank you for consideration of these supplemental views. I urge the Committee to support a transition to mandatory licensing for massage therapists, administered by a California Board of Massage, and reiterate
    ABMP interest in working with any and all parties to negotiate implementing details.

    Robert Benson

  13. If California’s state-level regulatory structure could provide the massage therapy community with equal or better service, than it might make sense to make the migration from voluntary certification through CAMTC to a mandatory state licensure process.

    As Keith Grant has pointed out, this is simply not the case. When disciplinary hearings take more than six months just to be scheduled, and nearly two years on average to be heard, it is an example of “Justice delayed is justice denied.” I recently heard from a colleague in Hawaii that her state’s Regulated Industries Complaints Office took five years to render a decision in a disciplinary case against an LMT there — and the person was allowed to continue his practice the whole time. State regulation of occupations — and the disciplinary processes that operate within those regulations — can be notoriously slow and ineffective.

    In addition, proprietary school regulation in California went completely dark for a two-year period. As Joe Bob Smith mentioned in his comment above, the state agency that oversees massage schools (since re-awakened) lacks the budget needed to enforce meaningful standards.

    Given the tremendous number of people practicing various forms of massage and bodywork in California, and the large number of massage schools, the folks at CAMTC have done an amazing job of creating some measure of order out of chaos.

    Let’s be honest here: the real beneficiaries of California’s regulatory process are the massage therapists themselves, and not the general public. Since the incidence of actual physical harm in the practice of massage therapy is exceedingly low, the public protection rationale for state regulation is weak at best.

    MT’s in California (and other states) have been subject for many years to demeaning, discriminatory and overly restrictive local ordinances intended to restrict the activities of adult entertainment. While these ordinances have been generally ineffective in controlling that sector, cities and counties created a hostile (and expensive) climate in which to practice massage therapy in California. To the degree that their massage certification act released MT’s from compliance with these onerous local regs, the process has been a significant success.

    It took 20 years to get the law passed that established voluntary certification in California, given the legislature’s reluctance to add another profession to the state’s regulatory structure. The bottom line is that CAMTC should be allowed to continue its work.

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