california flag with judge gavel in front for california massage lawIt’s a New Year—and with the New Year come changes to the law applicable to California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) certified massage professionals.

Assembly Bill 2194, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 22, 2016, extends the Massage Therapy Act—and CAMTC’s voluntary certification program—for another four years.

While some amendments were made to the California massage law, the individual requirements for certification as a massage therapist have not changed.

 picture of a fist painted in colors of american state flag of californiaIn Response to Local Regulations

During the sunset hearing, the California State Legislature heard from many massage business owners, a good portion of whom were sole proprietors, about the devastating impact of oppressive local regulations, excessive fees and overlapping permitting requirements on their small businesses.

After negotiations with local government representatives and industry representatives, the legislature amended the law with a focus on trying to protect legitimate massage businesses and providers.

The new amendments accomplish the following:

• Limit local government’s ability to impose oppressive fees and regulations on massage businesses by stating that, “Local governments shall impose and enforce only reasonable and necessary fees and regulations on massage businesses and massage establishments, in keeping with the requirements of existing law and being mindful of the need to protect legitimate business owners and massage professionals, particularly sole providers.”

• Showed the Legislature’s support for local regulation of massage businesses through revocable registration programs by stating that, “Local governments should give strong consideration to establishing a registration program that grants local governments the ability to either suspend or revoke a registration of massage business for specific violations.”

• Prohibit local governments from requiring that a massage business or establishment have a shower or a bath. While this prohibition might sound minor, requiring showers or baths under the old law was one way that some local governments made it harder for small massage businesses to operate.

• Clarified the provision prohibiting local governments from requiring CAMTC certificate holders to pass a background check to clearly state that local governments can’t require a CAMTC certificate holder to submit to a criminal background check or submit fingerprints for a state or federal background check.

Changes to the California Massage Law

AB 2194 also made some clarifying and technical changes to the California massage law and changed some provisions applicable to denial and disciplinary decisions. The provisions applicable to denials and discipline were amended in the following ways:

• The existing provision that allows a certificate holder to request a hearing on a suspension based on evidence has been clarified to state that the referenced hearing is an “oral hearing or consideration of a written statement.” This makes it clear that “hearing” doesn’t mean an in person hearing.

• Written statements and declarations signed under penalty of perjury can currently be used to “determine the basis” of a denial or disciplinary decision. This provision has been clarified to state that this also includes using those statements and declarations to make a final decision on denial or discipline.

• The procedures set forth in CAMTC’s law are deemed to meet the requirements for fair procedure.

• Lawsuits against CAMTC must now be brought within 90 days of the effective date of denial or discipline.

• Final decisions to deny or impose discipline are specifically authorized to be made based solely on written statements or declarations made under penalty of perjury, and those providing the statements or declarations cannot be required to appear at an oral hearing or provide additional documents.

• It has been clarified that certification is not a fundamental vested right, and the legal standard on review has been defined as the substantial evidence test.
In a recent meeting with the author of AB2194, Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), CAMTC Chairman Mark Dixon, C.M.T., B.C.T.M.B., thanked Salas for his diligent work “to protect consumers, local communities and the profession.”

California flag with shadow of people cheering in frontFor More Information

If you have any questions about the new California massage law and how it applies to you, please contact CAMTC Director of Governmental Affairs Beverly May, C.M.T., at

A full version of AB 2194 can be found here.

Ahmos Netanel is chief executive officer of the California Massage Therapy Council.