New bill aims to find, close illicit massage parlors

SACRAMENTO - A proposed new law would erase a loophole that's allowed illicit massage parlors in California to thrive.

A 2008 bill that intended to create more top-down regulation of the industry inadvertently removed the some of the ability of local governments to regulate massage parlors.

"The law actually created a loophole for illegitimate businesses to thrive,"Assem. Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, said.

The new law, authored by Assembly members Bonilla, Jimmy Gomez and Chris Holden, would give local governments expanded powers to crack down on illegal operators.

"And what this bill does is restore land use authority to local city governments and local county governments so that they can really make decisions about the businesses that are coming into their communities," Bonilla said.

"In recent years (we've seen) a proliferation of these illegal massage parlors and the fact is that sex sells," Sacramento County Sheriff's Special Investigations Sgt. Jason Ramos said. "These people are involved in the network that makes it very easy for them to start up another location elsewhere."

The new law could keep that from happening by requiring managers and owners to apply for certificates to operate with local governments.

"With this legislation, the business itself will need to get a certificate if the local government requires that," Bonilla said.

That certificate would help keep track of business owners operating establishments engaged in illegal activities.

"That business can actually be shut down and that owner could be prohibited from trying to reopen a business in a different location," Bonilla added.

The legislation would require the Massage Therapy Council, which oversees the industry in California, to have a majority of public members, including members from law enforcement and from local government.


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