Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown today introduced legislation called the Touch Therapy Bill which she said would crack down on prostitution operations masquerading as massage parlors.
Brown said her office found a loophole in the language of the state Massage Therapy Act of 2008 that exempts from regulation touch therapists who practice Asian bodywork and other types of alternative health massages.
"I do not know how or why these exemptions were granted, but I can almost guarantee that they were not conceived of or implemented at the suggestion of a woman," Brown said in a statement.
"They are flagrantly violating the law right under the noses of law enforcement, casting a cloud of suspicion on the professionals that are actually practicing the legitimate healing techniques involved in touch therapy and in the process, using and abusing women and girls who deserve a better life."
The bill, which was referred to a Council committee, would require Philadelphia massage parlors to acquire, maintain and display at all times a valid Department of Licenses and Inspections-issued "touch therapy license."
In order to be issued the license, applicants would be required to pay a $100 fee and submit all locations where therapy will be performed and lists detailing all prior criminal convictions and instances in which the applicant had any professional or occupational license denied, suspended or revoked.
Licenses will be able to be denied to applicants who have been convicted of certain crimes or to those who L&I have probable cause to believe may have committed any crime related to massage parlors.
The law would also create a new $300 penalty for those "engaging in touch therapy without a valid, current license."
"This bill will finally regulate an industry that has allowed some 'bad apples' to operate with an 'anything goes' approach, all under the auspices of 'touch therapy,'" Brown said.