Baltimore Co. OKs massage parlor bill

October 04, 1994|By Pat Gilbert | Pat Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

After approving several amendments, the Baltimore County Council last night approved a bill regulating massage parlors.

The vote on the administration bill was 5-1.

The dissenting vote was cast by Towson Republican Douglas B. Riley, who raised concerns about the constitutionality of allowing police to enter massage parlors without warrants and invading the privacy of customers.

"I don't disagree with the need to do something about this problem," Mr. Riley said. "But we're going at it the wrong way. This is a problem that could be addressed by zoning rather than by a complex regulatory scheme."

The county is the last metropolitan area subdivision to adopt legislation to regulate massage parlors. The bill becomes law in 45 days.

The bill establishes standards for massage parlor employees, requires owners to obtain county licenses and allows unannounced inspections by police for violations.

Councilman William A. Howard IV, R-4th, said he had a concern with what he termed drive-by inspections by police.

Patrick H. Roddy, a legislative aide to the Hayden administration, said he would work with county Police Chief Michael D. Gambrill to come up with a policy dealing with how police inspect the businesses.

One of the amendments approved last night reduces the licensing fees for massage parlors with less than three employees to $300 annually from a proposed $1,000 and to $450 from a proposed $1,500 for those with more than three employees. Massage parlor managers and massage technicians must acquire $20 annual licenses.

Under the measure, existing massage parlors will have to apply for the new licenses and they may not change location without the county's approval.

The bill exempts traditional, licensed health professionals such as doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, nurses and sports trainers as well as "massage therapists."

To qualify for the exemption, massage therapists will be required to have 500 hours of training and certification, or 200 hours of training if they are currently enrolled in a certified massage school.

Violation of the law is a criminal misdemeanor with a maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

After objections were raised about some provisions of the bill, the administration drafted several amendments to address them. For example, a ban on cross-sex massages, an important provision in the original measure, was removed.

The bill has been endorsed by the American Massage Therapy Association, whose members say they want professional standards to weed out massage parlors that are fronts for prostitution.

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