California Massage Therapy Sunset Review

The California Massage Therapy Act is up for sunset review this legislative session. This is a periodic review—the legislature assesses the state of regulation of massage therapy practice, examining how well it serves public interest. In a sunset review, the legislative committee charged with oversight of a profession evaluates the need, effectiveness, and performance of an agency (in this case, the California Massage Therapy Council, or CAMTC) for the purpose of improvement or discontinuance.
During previous sunset reviews, the committee's focus was on tweaking the original legislation, which led to CAMTC's creation to make administrative improvements or to respond to pressures by interested parties. This time around appears different. While the committee could end up simply making further adjustments to legislation affecting CAMTC, thus retaining the semi-independent, private, non-profit structure, it alternatively is considering replacing voluntary certification via CAMTC with a different approach. The alternative would be licensure of massage therapists by the state, the model followed by each of the other 45 US states that currently regulate massage therapy.
Way back in 2007–2008, when California first adopted regulation of massage therapy, ABMP had initially advocated for state licensing. When Governor Schwarzenegger was elected in the middle of that period and made clear his dislike of any new state regulatory boards, ABMP accepted a resultant compromise—what became CAMTC—as "60% of a loaf," but still an improvement over patchwork city and county regulation of our profession, sometimes administered in a demeaning manner.
The California Massage Therapy Act in our view has served a constructive, transitional purpose over the past decade, but it is starting to exhibit creaks. Certification, in effect, is no longer truly voluntary in some communities, and has permitted unfairly punitive local regulation to creep back into play in too many cities. Neither the public nor local law enforcement agencies are currently well-served by voluntary certification. A requirement instead that every California massage therapist be licensed seems a superior fit going forward. State licensing would provide a level playing field for all therapists.
How a transition to mandated state licensing is handled, of course, matters greatly. ABMP is already working with the two committees of the legislature with responsibility for massage regulation. We have an extensive history shaping massage regulation in other states. Our staff has earned wide regard by massage boards throughout the country. Among other issues to be addressed in a massage bill, assuring automatic transfer from existing CAMTC certification to a new California massage therapist license will be at the top of our priority list. 
Moving from certification to licensure does not mean that thousands of individuals not certified by CAMTC will become licensed or that diploma mills will come back in existence. Much of what is in the Massage Therapy Act and the protections it offers can be part of licensure. 
A joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate Business and Professions committee will be held March 24 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 4202 at the state capitol in Sacramento. You are welcome to attend. Should there be any change in this schedule, we will inform all our California members for whom we have a current email address. Meanwhile, we are compiling an updated list of ABMP member experiences with either CAMTC or local government regulation. We pledge to funnel your comments to Business and Professions committee staff. Please email accounts of your experiences, along with any other thoughts on massage regulation, to


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