AMTA’s Centralized Government Relations Approach Underscores the Strength of AMTA’s Chapters to Advance Critical Legislation
Thanks to efforts made by several passionate AMTA chapter leaders and AMTA’s national, centralized government relations team, AMTA continues to make tremendous strides in achieving fair regulation of massage therapy across the U.S. Part of that progress can be attributed to the dedication and hard work of AMTA members like Jeremy Miller (MN) and Dan Barrow (NM), who worked hand-in-hand with the National Office to pass or, in other cases, stop legislation impacting the profession. Recent legislative activities in Minnesota and New Mexico are just two examples of how AMTA’s strategic government relations approach has been successful in advancing key legislation.
Regulating Massage Therapy in Minnesota
Miller, AMTA-Minnesota Chapter’s government relations chair, has worked tirelessly since late 2007 on numerous projects focused on the regulation of massage therapy in his state. Miller’s work has led to the creation of the Minnesota Alliance for Licensing Massage Therapists, a group dedicated to enacting statewide massage therapy licensure. This broad-based coalition has gained significant support throughout the industry and from outside groups including the Minnesota Nursing Board.
“Working with AMTA's centralized government relations program was one of the keys to the success we had in this past legislative session,” says Miller. “The National Office was invaluable in putting us into contact with the right individuals working in legislative affairs in other states who had the information we needed.
"The national office also helped us come up with ideas to recruit volunteers who were the heart and soul of the effort. And, of course, we were so grateful for the grant money received through AMTA's Law and Legislative Assistance Program. Although the process in Minnesota has been in the works for many, many years, we had never before gotten out of one House committee. This year, thanks in part to the assistance we received from AMTA’s national office, our bill made great strides passing through four House committees.”
Work is still ongoing in Minnesota, but the most significant progress has been made over the last few years. Efforts to regulate massage therapy in Minnesota began about 18 years ago.
New Mexico Chapter Joins Forces With National Office
Barrow, AMTA New Mexico Chapter’s immediate past president, worked quickly to diffuse several issues that spontaneously arose in New Mexico during the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions. In 2009, a “health freedom” bill was introduced that would have allowed the unlicensed practice of massage therapy, essentially destroying the integrity of the current Massage Practice Act (MPA). The AMTA government relations team worked with Barrow to ensure language was included that specifically reinforced the authority of the MPA. AMTA and Barrow were “first responders” to the legislation and provided accurate information and guidance to all massage therapists in the state, including the state regulatory board.
During a 2009 special session, AMTA and Barrow again acted quickly to oppose budgetary legislation that would have transferred reserve funds from regulatory boards to the state’s general fund. Because of their efforts, the massage therapy regulatory board was not disproportionately affected.
Again, during the 2010 New Mexico legislative session, legislation was introduced that would have abolished several regulatory boards, including the massage therapy board. Through the swift efforts of Barrow and AMTA, the potentially harmful legislation did not succeed.
“When the legislation was initially proposed, I was stunned that AMTA's national staff knew more about what was happening in the New Mexico legislature than anyone in New Mexico, including the licensing board,” notes Barrow. “Without the early information from AMTA’s national government relations team and its assistance, encouragement and expertise, the result may well have been disastrous for our licensure laws in New Mexico. Words will never be enough to express the gratitude that I and many others in New Mexico have for our national office staff who work for our right to work.”
Each day, AMTA chapter members collaborate with members of the AMTA government relations team to protect your right to practice and identify any issues that could potentially hinder progress made by massage therapists and AMTA members across the U.S. If you’re interested in finding out more about the government relations program and how you can contribute within your own state, visit www.amtamassage.org/government.
For more information, contact Joe Roth, Government Relations Manager at the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).
For other volunteer opportunities, visit AMTA's Volunteer Connections.