Simi Valley Sophist

The Simi Valley Sophist ruminates on all manner of topics from the micro to the macro. SVS travels whatever path strikes his fancy. Encyclopedia Britannica: Sophist "Any of certain Greek lecturers, writers, and teachers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, most of whom travelled about the Greek-speaking world giving instruction in a wide range of subjects in return ..."

Location: California, United States

Retired: 30years law enforcement-last 20 years Criminal Intelligence Detective.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Angel Responds

I have three previous blogs on massage and the California attempt to regulate the business. Chronologically they are, and may be read at: Massage Therapist, Masseuse, or Whore -Take your Pick; An Open Letter on Massage to CA State Sen. Figueroa; and When an Angel Whispers & You Hear the Devil.

In the latter blog, I originally included a quote from a woman I called Angel because she had used the phrase, “…sometimes an angel can whisper in your ear, and you hear the voice of the devil.” I used the pseudonym “Angel” for her because I did not know whether or not she wanted to be identified. Turned out she was not happy about being quoted at all because it was not an example of her best writing. Besides that, she figured that knowledgeable people in the industry would know it was her writing anyway based upon the content. I redacted the quotation from the blog with the intent of posting a more detailed quote from Angel. That quote is listed below.

To set-up the quote, you should know the writer’s credentials. She is Beverly May, the legislative guru for the California chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA-CA). Beverly is a tireless worker striving to better the conditions for massage therapists in California. She is extremely credible and well respected. Here’s her statement:

It has always been the intent of AMTA-CA to create legislation which would remove all massage therapists from local regulations. From the start, both AMTA-CA and ABMP supported the 2 tier structure of 250 and 500 hours. Both organizations realized that we have members who wanted each of the tiers – although AMTA-CA members did not support tiers at all, the organization supported a structure with broader support. AMTA has lobbied for full grandfathering from the start. The grandfather provisions in SB 412 were written by Sen Figueroa’s staff. But the California legislature is not very supportive of either grandfathering or licensing, which is why we have this compromise bill. In the public venue, you either fight for the pure version of what you want, disrespecting the fact that other stakeholders have their own perspectives, or you work with them to get the best you can. Neither AMTA nor ABMP are finished trying to ease the grandfathering criteria. Now, both associations are on the same page as to changes we want to see in the bill – so to write a blog that strongly commends ABMP for protecting the low trained massage person vs AMTA-CA as out to get them is wrong.

This session, there was not a single legislator willing to carry a bill to license massage, for numerous reasons, mostly having to do with the Governor trying to abolish most regulatory boards. Senator Figueroa, Chair of the powerful Joint Commission on Boards, Commissions and Public Safety (the first committee to review the Sunrise applications justifying the rationale for new state regulation) became convinced that having to obtain permits in every city one works in, under widely varying and mostly onerous ordinances, is oppressive to the profession, bad for CA business, and an inefficient way to govern. So she offered to author her own bill. The result is this somewhat weak certification bill. It does exempt those who choose to be certified from most local regulations. Historically, groups that will not compromise for anything less than their own ideal law often lose – working incrementally for change is more often effective, and allows time to convince sway opponents in a more peaceful manner.

As for education, there are schools that feel that they have compromised up to a tier of 250 hours. There are other schools that want nothing less than 500 hours, represented by an organization that has no relationship with AMTA. There is a large spa group that wants 750 hours, and proposed phasing out the lower tier over time. Either everyone budges a little, or we stay where we are, subject to local ordinances ranging from zero to 1,000 hours of education, and the rest of the local vice regulations.

I would prefer that no one be left subject to local ordinances, if they did not want to be. But the alternative to “everyone or no one” is no one – the massage profession alone does not seem to have the influence to assure that everyone be included under the bill without some needing more education over time.

In areas with no local ordinance, or reasonably fair ones, people may choose not to become certified, and I for one am not going to insist that they become certified. I know of a number of people practicing massage who have no intent of becoming certified or licensed under any state law, if they can help it. SB 412 gives them that freedom. In my own business, there are 2 massage therapists who have been practicing for years with 100 hours of education – they left school believing that they had everything they need for a lifetime in massage. They give good, safe basic massage. They rarely receive massage, never touch a textbook or journal that I have available, nor converse about techniques or theory. Although I’d prefer that they had more education, they are reliable and good massage therapists. Keeping them in my business uncertified means that my business is not exempt from local ordinance. But I am willing to continue to deal with that as long as they care to remain with me. It is their choice whether to obtain further education. If I oppose the bill because they will not be grandfathered in without further education, we are all subject fully to local regulation.

As an aside, I am noticing that there are more and more continuing education classes available inexpensively – through the internet and other correspondence methods. These can be effective and easy ways for some to obtain more education, if we cannot ease the grandfathering provisions sufficiently to include everyone currently practicing.

As you know, support of the CA League of Cities is crucial. I am the one who submitted names to the League of law enforcement officials who could speak from experience in helping developing language that would not back-fire by leaving loopholes for prostitution. Do you suppose that I gave your name in hopes that you would not mention your support for the lower tier? If that was the case, I would not have named you.

AMTA-CA has one goal only with this bill – to get those of us who choose the new certification one stop shopping for permission to work, to pre-empt them from non-public health & safety regulation at the local level, and to allow them fair zoning & business license fees. Raising standards, becoming medical, mandating certification have never been our goals, and I have been very clear to both our membership and outsiders that these are not appropriate reasons for state regulation.

Please, Paul, the world is so full of anger and conflict. I have never treated a client in a way that brings more anger, guilt or disrespect to the world – even those men who have asked for “other services”. Likewise, I have from the start understood that the process by which easing burdensome laws occurs will define the healing and spirituality of the resulting work. I am so disappointed to read that you have not seen that in me, or understood anything you have heard me say.

This is indeed a time for me to reflect on how my message comes through. However, I learned not too long ago that sometimes an angel can whisper in your ear, and you hear the voice of the devil. When that happens, both the angel and the listener have work to do.

Now I believe that we have an accurate lay of the land. Some of the various stakeholders in this issue want a substantially greater number of training hours than are necessary. Why are they unnecessary? I’ll use Beverly’s own words to demonstrate,
In my own business, there are 2 massage therapists who have been practicing for years with 100 hours of education – they left school believing that they had everything they need for a lifetime in massage. They give good, safe basic massage. They rarely receive massage, never touch a textbook or journal that I have available, nor converse about techniques or theory. Although I’d prefer that they had more education, they are reliable and good massage therapists.

I thank Beverly for her time in writing. Now a little clarity on the issues is of prime importance. Here’s the reality:

  • The State has no legitimate public safety interest in regulating the massage industry because it is a non-invasive and safe practice, unlike the currently regulated health modalities.
  • The only legitimate reason for the State to regulate the massage business is to relieve the massage therapists from the often draconian and discriminatory local regulations and to create a license that is portable from local jurisdiction to local jurisdiction.
  • The current practice with other State health modality regulation is to license at an entry training level only. Unlike the proposed massage bill, State licensing of other health modalities does not include multiple tiers. The proposed two tier system of certification in this bill is elitist. The drafters of the bill obviously feel that those with 500 hours of training deserve the title of massage therapists, while those with 250 hours of training should only be called massage practitioners. The inference is that massage therapist is a more prestigious title. Well, perhaps so. But, designating 500 hour level with the premier title, as opposed to 250 hour level, is intellectually dishonest considering that there is no evidence to support such a supposition.
  • There is no industry evidence that entry level massage training needs to exceed 100-200 hours. Please note that Beverly, a representative of an organization with a 500 hour requirement, states unequivocally that her employees with 100 hours of training are competent massage therapists.
  • For their own purposes, there are a number of stakeholders who wish to require training levels far exceeding that which is needed for entry level work. The fact that they desire members of their organizations or employees to have a higher level of education is no reason for the State to accommodate their wishes by requiring excessive hours.
  • Any massage therapist currently licensed by a local jurisdiction should be grandfathered.

Here are my closing comments relative to Beverly’s text and this blog. I am a passionate advocate for the underdog with little inclination to compromise the principles outlined herein. Beverly’s words reveal her to be currently much more politically pragmatic than I. That could be because she has been intimately involved in the proposed legislation for a long period of time. She is probably correct about the current political prospects.

Thank you Beverly for having a good heart and working on this bill. But you are mistaken, this is not where we need to be. The spirituality of massage is far bigger and more inclusive than the elitism of this bill. Just because much of the rest of the country is foolishly charging ahead does not mean that California has to follow.

That having been said, I don’t want to give up. I want the stakeholders to rise above their self-interest for the good of the state citizenry and for the good of all massage therapists. I want the underdog to have a voice that is heard. I don’t want this bill as it is written. Without substantive philosophical changes to the bill, I say kill the bill and try again some other time. Does anyone want to join me for a little windmill jousting? It’s the right thing to do.