A bill sitting on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk would strengthen human trafficking laws and regulate where massage therapy can take place. The measures are designed to take aim at human trafficking in massage parlors, and elsewhere.
The bill would upgrade human trafficking from a Class F felony to a Class C felony. Class C and above felonies are regarded as high-level felonies.
Under North Carolina law a first time offense Class C felony is punishable by up to six years in prison.
Senate Bill 548 also removes the ability for a massage business to be classified as an adult business under the law and incudes a section reading; “No person shall permit the practice of massage and bodywork therapy, as defined in Article 36 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes, in an adult establishment.”
The legislation also requires massage parlors to be licensed as opposed to the current requirement, which just requires the massage therapists themselves to be licensed.
The hope is that giving the state authority over the parlors and not just the therapists will allow the state to better combat prostitution, which massage parlors have historically been used as front operations for.
The definition of a massage and bodywork therapy establishment would not include on-site massage performed in the home or at another location where the massage therapist comes to the client, stand-alone devices such a massage chairs, establishments located in hospitals, nursing homes or other medical facilities, sole practitioner massage therapists, a student clinic operated by a teaching institution or chiropractic offices.
The application fee for the license would be $20 and the initial license fee would be $150 with the renewal costing $100 each year.
The bill would also require that applicants to the board governing massage therapy must demonstrate a satisfactory proficiency of the English language, along with the other existing qualifications including submitting fingerprints to the board, 500 hours of classroom training, is 18 or older with a high school diploma or GED and also is of good moral character, as judged by the board.
Under the bill those applying for licensure for their massage parlor do not have to prove they are proficient in English.
The fee for licensure for the parlor would be the same as the individual massage therapist.
The law also prohibits sexual activity on the premises of the massage parlor, or solicitation of such activity.
The legislation also makes an allowance for the board governing massage parlors to require human trafficking awareness signs on the doors of massage parlors with information to a human trafficking hotline.
Most provisions of the law would become active in installments over the remainder of the year with the requirement that there be a $50 tax on the license becoming active July 1, 2018.