County Takes No Action Against Massage Parlors

SNOW HILL – Although passing two other bills governing sexually oriented businesses, the Worcester County Commissioners put aside the bill governing massage parlors this week after learning that legislation will be introduced in the state legislature that will likely have the same effect.

“There’ll be no need for us to have this legislation,” if the state passes a law, said Worcester County attorney Ed Hammond.

The county law would prohibit massage parlors offering sexually oriented services. Only Maryland state licensed and registered massage practitioners, therapists and medical personnel would have been permitted to offer massages under the legislation.

“Our attorney is putting in some legislation to ensure what we’re trying to protect is protected,” said local massage therapist Michelle Kilsner, representing the American Massage Therapists Association.

The state law, when enacted, would “mandate licensing provisions for individuals practicing massage therapy services in the state of Maryland,” wrote Dennis Rasmussen, president of the Rasmussen Group lobbying firm, in a letter to the county.

Jean Robinson, government relations director of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, wrote to the commissioners earlier this month asking that the massage bill be stopped, calling it confusing and inappropriate.

“These businesses are not ‘massage establishments’. If the adult oriented businesses are advertising themselves to be massage establishments or parlors, they are doing so illegally just by including the word ‘massage’,” Robinson wrote. “I encourage you to ban exactly the businesses you are trying to prevent from coming to the county – adult oriented entertainment businesses.”

Hammond told the commissioners he was fairly confident the state bill would pass, which would make the county bill redundant and confusing if it were in place.

“You can pass it later if you feel it’s necessary,” Hammond said.

The bill will remain active for a year.

Commissioner Virgil Shockley advised leaving the record on the anti-massage parlor bill open, which would give the public the right to comment in writing until the record is closed.

“The public has the right to lobby you ‘til you get through a door they can’t go through, right up until you vote,” Hammond said.

People can buttonhole their legislators as late in the process as they want, he added.