CITYWIDE — There might be a few kinks in City Hall’s plans to regulate massage parlors.
The new state law, created by State Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), regulating massage therapy in California is creating questions and confusion as to how it will affect City Hall’s strict laws that were imposed last summer.
“Some parts of the ordinance would conflict with the Santa Monica municipal code,” Deputy City Attorney Ivan Campbell said.
“The state law may permit, or may not contain, regulations as tough as what we have on the books here, that’s something we need to discuss,” Campbell added.
Generally, municipalities must obey state law, but there are conflicting reports coming from Oropeza’s office.
“The way I understand it, if Santa Monica has a stricter law than our new state law, anyone wanting to become a licensed masseuse in Santa Monica must comply with Santa Monica’s law,” Ray Sotero, communications director for Oropeza, wrote in a statement.
This is contrary to what Oropeza wrote in her statement.
“The new rules formulated by the MTO (Massage Therapy Organization, which is a non-profit statewide organization created by the bill to certify massage therapists) would be standard across the state and will supersede local laws.”
The bill, which became law on Jan. 1 and goes into effect in September, will create a statewide standard for obtaining a massage therapy license.
In the past, a masseuse seeking certification would have had to obtain a license from each city they wished to practice in. That may not be the case anymore and Gary Hunt, a local masseuse at The Massage Company, is definitely excited.
“We’ve been campaigning to try and get a state-run organization, so we can get licensed by the state, so we don’t have to pay individual license fees,” Hunt said.
Hunt has been frustrated about individual city licensing fees and he is glad that it could be over with.
“The cities want to make money from us, this is why massage therapists are irritated, it’s taking money from us, it has nothing to do with safety,” Hunt said.
According to Oropeza’s statement, the purpose of the state law is to crack down on crime organizations using massage therapy as a front for prostitution.
Hunt argued that stiffer regulations wont have an effect on illegal massage parlors.
“If you’re into prostitution you won’t want to be licensed at all,” Hunt said. “It’s really only affecting the legitimate therapists. If you’re going to do something illegal you’re going to keep it as underground as possible.”
The Santa Monica Police Department enforces the laws regarding massage therapy, and the department is not concerned about new laws, which may make it easier to obtain a license.
“The main focus is going after criminal organizations, not just criminals, that is the most effective way to attack,” SMPD Sgt. Robert Almada said. “I don’t think the new laws will prevent us from doing that.”