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Arizona's massage therapists will now need to pass a criminal background check and obtain a fingerprint clearance card before they begin working on clients.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill this week that requires those applying for a massage therapist license to obtain a fingerprint card from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
In response to several news stories about misconduct taking place inside massage parlors, the state's new therapists will be obligated to undergo the same type of vetting that's mandated for Arizona's school teachers and bus drivers.
Arizona law already states that massage therapists can't have certain criminal convictions in their recent past. But local lawmakers say the regulators tasked with policing therapists haven't done well at rooting out bad actors.
State Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, introduced the legislative changes after reading an investigation by the Arizona Republic into several sexual abuse allegations against massage therapists.
The newspaper discovered clients often struggle to check whether a massage therapist is licensed or if they've had complaints made against them.
The Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy was also not equipped to regulate rogue therapists since it had mostly consisted of industry insiders, the Republic's investigation noted.
Longdon, who used to work in the massage industry, said the regulatory board is not always kept in the loop on criminal matters involving massage therapists.
"Often the massage therapy board only learns of violations if they see it in the news," Longdon said during a legislative hearing.
The new background check rules will become effective in 2023.
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