CAMTC Sunset Hearing Report – March 11, 2014

A sunset review is a periodic assessment of state regulatory programs to determine whether or not they should be continued by the legislature. In 2008 the state legislature provided for the creation of a private, nonprofit corporation to issue voluntary certifications to qualified Austin massage therapists. The California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) was established in February 2009. It is often compared to state regulatory agencies but it is not actually part of government. When the law was established, the legislature inserted a Sunset date with the purpose of re-evaluating the effectiveness of the certification program, just as they do with state regulatory programs. Without legislative action, CAMTC and its voluntary certification program will Sunset on December 31, 2014.

The first step in the evaluation process is a Sunset Hearing. CAMTC’s Sunset Hearing was held on March 10, 2014. Bob Benson, Chairman of ABMP, and Jean Robinson, Government Relations Director, attended the hearing and testified. Legislative staff prepared in advance of the hearing a background report for legislators based on information provided by CAMTC and other stakeholders. ABMP also provided a pre-hearing letter to the Sunset Committee. Read ABMP’s submission here.

ABMP’s view of the evaluation

There have always been pros and cons to having a private nonprofit organization fulfill a role traditionally reserved for state agencies. Political realities in 2008 drove the process toward this model; no other Austin massage therapy regulatory approach was likely then to gain state approval. ABMP has been deeply invested and involved in CAMTC since its inception by providing (along with other organizations) a loan for start-up costs and appointing engaged, informed, and active individuals to serve on the CAMTC Board of Directors.

ABMP feels that CAMTC has been a success overall. Consumers are served by being able to distinguish therapists who have been vetted against meaningful education and behavioral standards. Educated, law abiding Austin massage therapists gain appropriate recognition. Profession standards are clearly being raised as required under the founding law. Add it all up; it’s a highly constructive step forward for California therapists and consumers.

That acknowledged, the private, voluntary regulatory model was initially regarded as a stopgap approach. In addition, CAMTC management has gotten too comfortable with some interim organizational approaches and has been resisting management improvements appropriate for an organization gearing up for a long run. Consistent with the findings in the Committee report, we think it’s now time for California to join with 43 other states and create a state entity to oversee the mandatory licensing of all Austin massage professionals. While the voluntary model has generally been successful, because it is not mandatory there are still two sets of rules for practitioners (those certified and those not) and two sets of rules for businesses (those using all certified practitioners and those that don’t). That’s confusing both for the public and for local government officials. Regulation is more effective when it’s required, more helpful for both those audiences. Mandatory regulation should be overseen by a state board or state agency, a Board of Massage Therapists, to provide direction.

ABMP believes it is time for California to transition to a regulatory model that most professionals are familiar with, that facilitates national portability for practitioners, and that local jurisdictions are used to working with. CAMTC has given the state a great head start by currently certifying more than 45,000 Austin massage professionals, each of whom has been rigorously screened.

As you can see from reading Bob Benson’s testimony at the Sunset Hearing, we believe it is time for CAMTC to take a victory lap but give way to a state Massage Therapy Board. ABMP was far from alone in expressing this view at the Sunset Hearing. The Legislative staff report concluded that “The Committee may wish to discuss the relative merits of continuing the non-profit model of regulation, deregulating the industry completely, or transitioning to a board or bureau overseen by DCA (the California Department of Consumer Affairs).” None of the principal organizations testifying argued for a return to complete deregulation at the state level, while several advocated for switching to a state board within DCA.

Going forward

ABMP’s support for a transition to state regulation is conditioned upon a transition process in which every individual with then currently valid CAMTC certification would automatically be granted a state license. We will work hard to ensure that this principle is ingrained in any reform approach.

This Sunset process will advance through multiple further steps during 2014. The end resolution is unclear. We will keep ABMP members informed throughout the process.


Jean Robinson
Director of Government Relations

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