New bill seeks to license massage and Asian bodywork therapists

On February 18th a bill was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature aiming to license massage therapy and Asian bodywork therapy.  The new bill, if enacted into law, requires the establishment of a licensing board to oversee the industry. The duties of the board will include among the following:

(1)Issuing licenses to qualified applicants

(2)Establishing educational requirements as well as approving ” massage therapy and Asian Bodywork therapy school of programs, and conduct or provide for surveys of schools, programs and courses”.

(3) Maintaining a list of licensed therapists

(4)Adopting rules of standard as well as practice.

(5)Approving an examination used for credentialing

(6)Enforcing rules to do with licensing as well as investigating violations.

According to this new bill, no single person will be allowed to practice as a massage therapist or Asian bodywork therapist unless licensed. A person found doing so would be guilty of a “gross misdemeanor”.

There is a lot that can be said about the negative impacts of occupational licensing. For instance, even though it’s aimed at protecting consumers, licensing tends to increase prices. Research has found that occupational licensing deters economic mobility and increases inequality. Licensing, additionally, is also a barrier to physical migration. In essence licensing is one of the best tools governments can use to keep the poor away from job opportunities.

In December, Minnesota had the third-highest level of job losses in the nation. Most of these job losses were concentrated in the low-wage sector, mostly made up of low-income workers. In such a climate, introducing more laws that keep low-income workers from accessing job opportunities should be the last thing on any legislator’s agenda.

Legislators should instead focus on cutting red tape in order to allow laid-off workers into new job opportunities as well as attract workers outside of Minnesota. Bills increasing regulatory hoops for individuals to pass through only make that much harder. This is a time when workers need a few barriers to jobs, not more. The Minnesota legislature will be doing Minnesotans a disservice in passing this bill.