AMTA-WA Government Relations Update; September 30, 2022

AMTA-WA Government Relations Update

By Diana Thompson, LMT and Susan Sherman, LMT, Co-Chairs

September 30, 2022

The following is a summary of key issues to include the status of the Governor’s proclamations, actions by the Board of Massage at their September 23rd meeting, an overview of the 2022 elections, and the upcoming legislative session.

Governor’s Proclamations. The Governor has announced that he is rescinding the State of Emergency as well as the remaining COVID-19 emergency proclamations on October 31. Vaccination requirements for health care workers will end, but employers can still require them. In fact, the Governor said that “..COVID-19 vaccination will remain a condition of employment for most Washington state agencies.”

Mask Requirement for Health Care Settings. The requirement for masking for health care professionals remains until the Department of Health decides to rescind it. Failure to adhere to this requirement has resulted in charges being filed against health care providers for unprofessional conduct.

Continuing Education. The big news is that the waiver of the CE requirement for 8 hours of in person CE is ending December 31, 2022. AMTA-WA has consistently advocated for its extension, but all Board members believed the requirement was too important to not reinstate, now that the Governor is rescinding the State of Emergency. Please read the notice sent by the Board of Massage to all licensed massage therapists. If you did not receive it, it means the Department of Health does not have your current email address. Please note that questions may be directed to .

Massage linens. Since September 1, 2021, when the last major revisions of the massage rules became effective, “linens” have been defined to include blankets. That’s important because WAC 246-830-500 requires that: “ A massage therapist must provide single service materials or clean linen such as sheets, towels, gowns, pillow cases, and all other linens used in the practice of massage.” The Board has considered a WAC change that would have only required blankets to be replaced once a day, unless soiled or they came in contact with the patient. But that change was rejected, and so we wanted to emphasize the rules as it applies to all linens, to include blankets.

Massage Interstate Compact (Compact). At the recent Board of Massage meeting, there was a presentation by Dr. Debra Persinger, FSMTB Executive Director, about the Compact. We expect that legislation to create the Compact will be introduced in the 2023 session.

Membership in the Compact requires 625 hours of massage education either in school or via CE. Details concerning how CE credits will be counted are not available, as determining those details will be the subject of rulemaking by the entity that manages the Compact. At the Board meeting, AMTA-WA raised concerns about the 625 hour standard, which creates a substantial problem for long-time massage therapists—whose initial massage education could have been far less than 625 hours. That standard is also different than other health care compacts, that simply require state licensure.

AMTA-WA also raised concerns about the lack of an option for a jurisprudence exam for those states that require it. As you all know, a jurisprudence exam is required for licensure in Washington State. While other health care compacts allow states with this requirement to keep it, the Compact, as drafted, does not. AMTA-WA believes it’s important for all massage therapists working in Washington State to know the law. That’s the purpose of the exam.

The Compact is expected to be finalized in December, and AMTA will provide updates.

2022 Elections. The primary election was held on August 2, and the general election will be held on November 8. First and foremost, please be sure you’re registered to vote, and then vote! A democracy requires that we participate, and your voting ensures that all voices are heard.

Currently, Democrats control the House by a margin of 57-41, and the Senate by a margin of 28-21. While those numbers may shift somewhat, Democrats are predicted to remain in control of both houses of the Legislature.

2023 Legislative Session. The Legislature reconvenes on January 9, 2023, for 105 days. It’s a long session next year because the Legislature needs to adopt a biennial budget. AMTA-WA will keep you updated on key issues for our profession.

Our Goodbyes. Finally, this will be our last Government Relations Update, as we’re saying “goodbye.” We’ve had a good run, and we’re proud of the work we’ve done, together with our long-time lobbyist Gail McGaffick, to include a complete revision of the massage rules, as well as keeping you all informed during this pandemic. But it’s time for fresh “horses” as the saying goes. We’re not going out to pasture, but we are going to work less. And our long-time lobbyist Gail McGaffick is going to do the same. We know our collective leaving will be a big change for AMTA-WA, so we’re all doing our best to assure as smooth a transition as possible. It has truly been our honor and pleasure to work with you all.