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Seeking to work out the kinks in California's disputed massage regulations, Assembly members are poised to announce a bill giving local governments broader powers to crack down on wayward operators.

In the years since California transferred oversight of the massage industry from municipal authorities to a centralized state nonprofit known as the California Massage Therapy Council, many cities have witnessed a boom in the number of massage establishments.

Local leaders have complained about their inability to regulate the mushrooming massage parlors, and law enforcement has warned of an expanded risk of illegitimate enterprises selling sex under the guise of physical therapy. In response to those concerns, a trio of lawmakers will unveil a bill Thursday meant to restore some local control.

The bill would delete a provision of the law shielding certain massage parlors from local land use ordinances. Critics of that exemption say land use rules are a critical tool for cities seeking to cap the number of massage establishments in a given area or to prevent new businesses from quickly replacing shuttered parlors. Cities would be empowered to enact additional ordinances governing areas like health code requirements and operating hours.

The legislation also tries to impose more accountability on massage parlor owners. Business managers, not just individual massage therapists, would need to get certified.

Cops and cities would have an amplified voice in massage matters. The California Massage Therapy Council, currently populated by industry representatives, would have dedicated seats for the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties, and the California Police Chiefs Association.

Assembly members Jimmy Gomez, Susan Bonilla and Chris Holden are authoring the legislation.

PHOTO: A licensed massage therapist massages a regular client at the Massage Envy Spa at Loehmann's Plaza in Sacramento on February 22, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.


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