Despite last-minute efforts by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage (NCBTMB), a state massage bill has been signed into law in Pennsylvania.

A letter sent from the NCBTMB on Oct. 3 encouraged Pennsylvania certificants to urge their legislators to vote no on HB2499. The sample letter provided by NCBTMB read, in part:

“Current language of the bill will allow any ‘psychometrically sound’ exam to be proposed for licensure. One such exam, MBLEx, is being funded and promoted by [Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals] a for-profit membership organization that is exerting enormous influence across the massage industry with increasing control in many business-critical areas … in the interest of public health and safety, I, along with many of my peers, urge you to vote NO on HB2499 in its present form.”

The MBLEx, or Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam, is an exam created by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).

Founded in 2005 with seed money provided in part by the ABMP, the nation’s largest massage association, the FSMTB developed the MBLEx to provide an exam under control of state regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing massage and bodywork practice, as an alternative to examinations administered by third-party organizations, such as the NCBTMB.

The Federation quickly grew after its founding and now counts 28 states as members, nearly three-quarters of states that regulate the profession.

In late July MASSAGE Magazine reported that the NCBTMB had lodged a challenge to the Florida Board of Massage Therapy’s decision to use the MBLEx exclusively beginning in May 2009. As of press time, no further details on that situation were available.

On Oct. 6 M.K. Brennan, the president of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the nation’s second-largest massage association and a group that is active in developing state massage laws, told MASSAGE Magazine, “AMTA is disappointed that efforts have been made to alter the massage therapy bill in Pennsylvania so late in the process.

“The AMTA-Pennsylvania Chapter and many other massage therapy organizations and individuals devoted several years and countless amounts of energy in working for legislation that would be fair for all in the profession and for the public,” she continued. “At this point, we are still hopeful that HB2499 will pass this month and be signed by the governor.”

The bill was signed into law by Governor Edward G. Rendell on Oct. 9.

—Karen Menehan, MASSAGE Magazine editor in chief