BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Last week, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed an effort to repeal parts of House Bill 1315, sending it to the Senate. If passed, HB1315 would no longer require licensing for specific industries, including art therapists, auctioneers, interior designers, wigologists and massage therapists.
House speaker Phillip Gunn introduced the bill, saying the goal is to shrink government. “Some of the way we can do this is by eliminating some of the commissions and boards that are out there,” he said while addressing state representatives. “We feel like we’re impeding progress and getting jobs and allowing people to make a living in the state.”
But people in the industries being affected say this is not the right way to do that.
Licensed massage therapist Mary Heidingsfelder says her goal is also to see jobs increase in Mississippi but she doesn’t think this is the way to go about it.
“Anyone off the street could open up a shop and say, ‘Hey, I’m a massage therapist,’ and they have no idea what they are doing,” said Heidingsfelder. “They haven’t had a background check. Their intentions could be really bad, and we’ve seen it in the past. So, I think if it passes it would be very bad for Mississippi. We want to see Mississippi move forward. I want to see the workforce increase also, but I want Mississippi to have a competent, educated, trained workforce, not ‘Hey, this is easy. Come get a job here.’”
Heidingsfelder is a massage therapist at Healing Hands Chiropractic in Long Beach,
“If they want to make it easier to gets jobs in the state, don’t take away the safeguards that are in place to protect the general public. I mean, they can do other things to make it easier to get a license without taking away the education,” she said.
Heidingsfelder stressed that both education and training are key to practicing massage therapy safely.
“Some insurances pay for this service for patients. Cancer patients, chriopractic patients, physical therapy patients...So it is a legit profession with someone that needs to be educated, competent and know what they are doing,” she said. “You need to know if there are certain conditions a client has that you can’t do, certain modalities on them. You need to know so you don’t physically hurt them or worsen a condition that they have.”
Another component of the bill seeks to eliminate the state Board of Massage Therapy. Heidingsfelder says this will leave the door open for misconduct in the profession.
“(The board) can come in and inspect to make sure I am doing everything right,” she said. “When you remove that licensing board, there’s no accountability, someone to come in and check on you and make sure you’re doing the right things. I think that will happen a lot more if they get rid of the licensing board.”
The bill still has to go to the state senate for approval.