Massage therapy bill passes Arizona House and moves to Senate

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The Arizona House on Monday passed a bill that would strengthen the criminal history process for licensed massage therapists.

HB 2438 would require massage therapists to have fingerprint authorization cards as of January 2023 for initial licensing and license renewal. The legislation would also require state regulators to post all disciplinary and non-disciplinary actions taken against licensed massage therapists online.

The House on Monday approved the measure with a 43-15 votes. The legislation now moves to the Arizona Senate for consideration.

At this moment, the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy only lists disciplinary action for massage therapists on its online database of massage therapists. This means that consumers do not know if a therapist has received a complaint, only received a warning letter, which may be a sign of concerning behavior.

Representative Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix

The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, results from The Arizona Republic Five-Month Investigation last year in sexual abuse complaints against massage therapists. The Republic investigation found that the licensing board gave many therapists a second chance when they are accused of fondling or sexually abusing their clients. This puts customers at risk, and there is very little they can do to protect themselves.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who appoints massage board members, replaced the entire massage therapy board following the investigation of the Republic. Ducey said in a statement at the time, “It is critical that the State Board of Massage Therapy protect massage clients, especially those in a vulnerable position.” Ducey said he was confident his new people would.

DATABASE: Tracking Arizona massage therapists charged with sexual misconduct

Longdon was a massage therapist and spa consultant before her career ended in 2004, when she was paralyzed in a drive-by shooting.

His bill would require an applicant to have a valid card fingerprint clearance card to obtain a massage license or to renew a license. Fingerprint cards are required under state law in various professions, including teachers, school bus drivers, and people who work in classrooms.

As part of the fingerprint clearance process, the Arizona Department of Public Safety reviews a person’s criminal history. They are not eligible to receive a card if they have been convicted of certain crimes.

Republic special report: Massage therapists accused of sexual abuse continue to work

The current background check process is slightly different for massage therapists: applicants are not required to have fingerprint clearance cards. Instead, they submit their fingerprints to the Massage Board, which sends them to the Arizona Department of Public Safety for federal and state criminal record checks. Board staff then reviews the results.

Members of the Arizona Massage Board have not yet voted to take a position on the legislation. At a meeting in January, council investigator David Elson raised concerns about replacing the current criminal history process for fingerprint cards. The current process allows counsel to learn important details about a plaintiff’s criminal history, he said, including the original offense the person was charged with and whether the person accepted a plea deal. for a lesser violation.

Prostitution charges, for example, are routinely reduced to lesser offenses of trespassing or disorderly conduct through plea agreements. Elson said knowing these details is important when deciding whether to issue a license or renew a license.

Longdon on Monday introduced an amendment to its legislation that retains the board’s current background check process while adding fingerprint clearance cards for massage therapists.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8072. Follow her on Twitter @anneryman.

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