April 8, 2012 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Here’s the rub: You’ll need a license to massage

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Idaho will join 43 other states and start licensing massage therapists, after Sen. Jim Hammond‘s bill was signed into law last week by Gov. Butch Otter.

Therapists will have 18 months to become licensed; currently, anyone can claim to be a massage therapist and charge for the service, including criminals.

“Everybody giggles about massage therapy, but really it has become a mainstream therapy for healing and for maintaining good health,” said Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene. He said people taking a relative or family member for massage therapy – which now often is prescribed for everyone from people recovering from medical procedures to the elderly or disabled – “want somebody of high moral character … who’s well-trained.”

The maximum annual licensing fees would be $200.

Most North Idaho lawmakers supported the new licensing law, which massage therapists have sought for years; just two in the Senate, Sens. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, and Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, and five in the House opposed it.

Among the House opponents was Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, who told the House, “The more restrictions we have, the less jobs we have.”

Misgivings, but law

Gov. Butch Otter didn’t sign HB 376, legislation designed to relieve Pennsylvania-based Crown Holdings from liability for millions in old asbestos claims, but he allowed it to become law without his signature. In a letter explaining his decision, Otter wrote, “I am concerned about the retroactive nature of this proposed solution and its public policy applicability beyond the case at hand.

“HB 376 sets the troubling precedent of reaching back to the 1970s to address liability exposure with only a tenuous connection to Idaho,” Otter wrote. “It also seems to me to be written too narrowly and tailored too specifically to the issue prompting this legislation – a practice we seek assiduously to avoid.”

However, he wrote, “I support tort reform,” so he let the bill become law.

The bill, which barely passed the Senate, was drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council and Crown Holdings, and the two have been taking it from state to state for the past decade; it has passed in 14 states, but in 2010 was overturned in Texas as unconstitutional.

Your arguments …

The Idaho Legislature is soliciting public comments on arguments for and against the two state constitutional amendments that lawmakers enacted this year: HJR 2, the “Right to Hunt” amendment; and SJR 102, a one-word change in the state constitution to clarify that counties, and not just the state, can supervise misdemeanor probation services.

The much-debated Right to Hunt amendment is roughly two-thirds about the right to hunt, fish or trap, and one-third about what the amendment doesn’t intend to do: affect private property rights or water rights, or affect the state’s ability to suspend or revoke a person’s hunting, fishing or trapping license as permitted by state law.

Comments may be sent by email to mnugent@Lso.idaho.gov; the deadline is April 20.

Costs rise …

The cost to the state for fighting the wrongful-firing lawsuit from former Idaho transportation chief Pam Lowe: $540,479 and counting, reports the Idaho Statesman, which obtained the figure by filing a public records request under the Idaho Public Records Law. That’s the total as of March 31 for the taxpayers’ tab for the private law firm the state hired to fight Lowe’s lawsuit.

Meanwhile, another public records request to the ITD from Eye on Boise yielded this: The Connecting Idaho Partners contract, for which Lowe contends she was fired for trying to trim back, has swelled to $82,929,461 as of of March. The management contract with URS, formerly Washington Group, and CH2M Hill was first envisioned at $50 million over 10 years; Lowe was trying to reduce it to less than $30 million when she was fired.

Governor cites a conflict

HB 519 was nicknamed the “developer’s discount” bill this year; it would exempt from property taxes any improvements a developer makes to a property prior to constructing a building or selling the land. Some counties said they don’t tax site improvements like roads or utilities on developing land anyway; others said they did.

Gov. Butch Otter last week allowed the bill to become law without his signature, citing a conflict of interest. In a letter to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Otter wrote, “There could be a conflict of interest for me as a land developer. To avoid the appearance of impropriety I have allowed H 519 to become law without my signature.”

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