Bill would help law enforcement identify illicit establishments
A public hearing was held Friday at the state Capitol in Olympia on a bill that would help law enforcement identify illicit massage parlors.
Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1082. The bill was heard in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. She noted during the hearing, there are many legitimate massage and reflexology establishments getting a bad name because of fly-by-night operations that set up as a front for prostitution.
“This bill addresses organizations that may appear from the outside to look like a legitimate massage or reflexology establishment. However, on the inside, there are very different activities taking place, some that are part of sex trafficking operations in which women are forced to work in an illegitimate and illegal practice,” said Kraft.
The 17th District lawmaker noted that police have walked into some of the illegitimate establishments, only to be stymied by the inability to match certification with legal identification.
“There are cases in which they’ve walked in and they could hear the certification being printed off on a printer in the backroom,” added Kraft. “This bill would require a massage or reflexology therapist to carry a government-issued ID, such as your driver’s license or enhanced ID. That way, law enforcement could verify the therapist’s certification matches the photo ID.”
Among those testifying at Friday’s hearing was Jonathan Young, Civil Division chief for the city of Vancouver.
“This isn’t just a Vancouver problem. This is a statewide problem,” said Young. “We appreciate Representative Kraft’s efforts in bringing this forward. This closes the last loophole of allowing law enforcement to have a meaningful contact with the people that they’re engaging, and so they can compare the certificate and get the photo ID, ensuring that they are talking to a licensed practitioner.”
An industry lobbyist testified the measure is widely supported by massage therapists and reflexologists because it would help to legitimize their businesses and discourage the sex trade.
“We have great folks working in that industry,” noted Kraft. “This legislation would also help to protect our massage and reflexologists who are licensed and are doing great work in that field.”
Kraft noted a similar bill she sponsored passed the House last year and was awaiting action on the Senate floor when time ran out. She’s hopeful this year’s measure receives strong support and makes it to the governor’s desk to become law.
Information provided by Washington State House Republican Communications, houserepublicans.wa.gov .