A Disgrace in Iowa

Iowa House File 2342 has been on my radar for several weeks (initially introduced as HF 2126). Yesterday, I received a further communication on it, which stated that “the bill as written will not be brought up for consideration unless Matt Windschitl (the sponsor of the bill) requests it. The understanding is he will hold the bill until next year so there will be time for positive feedback from the profession and new language can be, at that time,  introduced with the support of the massage community.”

That’s good, because at this time, it doesn’t have the support of anyone except the misguided person who set it in motion, nor should it.

I was initially stunned at the poorly-written and  ill-conceived bill that eliminates the education requirement for massage therapy, which is currently 600 hours. The first draft of the bill I saw just struck through the education requirement altogether, although line 25 still says “meets or exceeds Iowa’s educational requirements.” This upset me to the point that I called on several Iowa residents and people in the know, who basically assured me that it was a “placeholder” bill….a simple explanation of a placeholder bill is that “the deadline for introducing any bills is imminent, and we’ve got to get something in there now that we can revise later”….one of those quirks of politics.

As of February 21, I hate to report that the revision doesn’t look any better. The language getting rid of the 600-hour requirement is still there, and nothing to take it’s place.

I have had three reliable sources state to me that this bill was introduced at the request of a school owner who is upset about federal regulations on financial aid, and that the true intent of the bill is to change clock  hours to credit hours. However, that isn’t spelled out. This legislation is a piece of crap in its present form that sends massage right back to the dark ages in Iowa.  It’s being discussed on several Facebook threads, and the consensus is that the Iowa Board of Massage had nothing to do with it, that AMTA has nothing to do with it–other than expressing their displeasure and urging their members to contact their legislators to kill it–and that the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards–as an entity–has nothing to do with it. Interestingly enough, the bill also places two school owners on the Iowa Board.

Kathy Jensen, the current President of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, who is an Iowa resident and a school owner, and former Chair of the Iowa Board, in direct response to my asking on my FB page if any Iowa residents had a clue on this, stated “Wearing my own hat and not FSMTB hat….. HF 2126 is as Keith Grant mentioned, was a place holder. Iowa has in place in their rules “600 clock hours or the equivalent in credit hour”, that has not changed. The education requirements have not been eliminated or changed for the state. The new language for the bill will support consistency in statute and rules. If the statute requires only clock hours and the rules state both there is inconsistency. I don’t see this as a big change for Iowa since it has been in the rules for a long time without issue. I do see the additional acceptance of credit hours in statute as a step forward for the massage industry.”

That’s well and good–except for one thing: The ongoing sermon from the Federation is portability. Nearly every other state is still operating on the clock hour requirement for massage education, so I don’t see how this is going to serve portability in any way. It’s a common practice in community colleges to use the credit hour system, but in most states, they actually have to convert that to clock hours on their transcripts to prove clock hours to the satisfaction of the state board. If you look at the state requirement charts for licensing that are regularly printed in our trade journals, every one is listed in clock hours, not in credit hours. The one revision that has taken place on the bill doesn’t do anything to clear up the language or the issue. It is just striking the 600 hours and leaving the “education requirements” part, without spelling out what that is.

My five years of service on the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy ended last year. I’ve never owned a school, but there were a few times when I had to recuse myself from a disciplinary hearing, vote, or discussion, because of a conflict of interest or something that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. People who are serving on public boards need to recall at all times that not only are you obligated to avoid a conflict of interest, you are obligated to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Yes, you have a life–and rights–as a private citizen, and as a school owner. When that is in conflict–or appears to be in conflict–with the obligations you have agreed to carry out for the Board you are serving, you have a choice. You either recuse yourself, you resign and get out altogether, or you put yourself and the entity you serve at risk. I would urge whatever school owners who serve the Iowa Board, and anyone who serves any board, to remember that fact.