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Massage Therapy Bill Moves to Senate Appropriations Committee

City Officials, the League, City Lobbyists and Others Testify in Strong Support

June 24, 2014
The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee yesterday heard AB 1147 (Bonilla), the California Massage Therapy Act and passed it on an 8-0 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will likely hear it in August following the Legislature’s summer recess.
The League supports AB 1147 because it corrects the unintended consequences of SB 731, the 2008 legislation that created a voluntary certification process for massage therapists that led to the proliferation of establishments offering illicit services and/or engaging in human trafficking. SB 731 sunsets on Jan. 1, 2015 and the League, cities and other stakeholders have been working to craft new regulations that return local government’s authority to regulate massage therapists and massage businesses.
AB 1147, authored by Assembly Member Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Member Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), was amended in committee to authorize cities and counties to enforce any ordinance or zoning requirements relative to massage establishments without applying it to another professional service provider first. Under the amendments, local governments would not be allowed to define massage as adult entertainment, require medical examinations, impose additional background checks or require education requirements beyond what is stipulated in the bill.
In brief AB 1147:
  • Strikes a balance by allowing local governments to regulate the businesses, while the California Massage Therapy Council will be responsible for the professional standards of the individual massage professionals;
  • Returns critical tools to local jurisdictions to be able to regulate massage establishments and close down illicit businesses; and
  • Authorizes cities and counties to adopt or enforce any local ordinance governing zoning, business licensing, or reasonable health and safety requirements for massage establishments.
City officials testified in support of AB 1147 and urged the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee to pass it. Several of the city officials who traveled to Sacramento today previously testified in support of the bill when it was taken up by the Sunset Review Committee, which jointly comprises Assembly Business Professions and Consumer Protection committee and the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development committees.
Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson, who is a land use attorney by profession, spoke of the challenges her city and others have faced under SB 731. “We have no ability to regulate these businesses and our residents are asking us to do so. It (AB 1147) will help our planning staff and our police department immensely and help us create thriving communities throughout California.”
South Pasadena Mayor Marina Khubesrian, M.D., told the committee that her city had passed an emergency moratorium on new massage businesses. “This is the only thing we have in our tool box to enable us to follow our General Plan and protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents. AB 1147 brings the tools back to cities.” Dr. Khubesrian was interviewed by KCET on the issue — “South Pasadena Mayor: Why Loca, Control of Massage Parlors is important.”
Lomita City Council Member Mark Waronek shared the fact that his city of just 20,000 residents had a handful of massage establishments in 2008. Today that number has more than quadrupled. “We can say with certainty that there is not a demand for 27 legitimate massage businesses in our city.”
Kelly Mulldorfer, captain II, detective support and vice division with the Los Angeles Police Department, expressed how the 2008 regulations have complicated her department’s ability to stop prostitution and human trafficking. “AB 1147, as amended, would reestablish much of the local control we lost.”
San Gabriel City Manager Steve Preston said that his city now has 13 massage establishments for each of its square miles.
These city officials were joined by a long line of others in support of AB 1147 including lobbyists from dozens of cities, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Planning Association and the California State Sheriffs’ Association.
More information is available at www.cacities.org/massage.

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