S.D. massage panel wants timing, fee changes

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Legislature might be asked to change licensing and fees for professionals who give massages.

The state Massage Therapy Board agreed Tuesday to seek lawmakers’ approval of a two-year license during the 2021 session. The license currently is valid for one year.

Under the proposal, renewal years would match a person’s birth year, even or odd. The board discussed offering a similar proposal last year but didn’t move it forward.

The 2020 legislative session ended March 30.

The state board Tuesday also supported asking lawmakers next year to raise the maximum fees for applications and renewals.

The proposed maximums wouldn’t exceed $200. The maximum fees in law now are $100 for applications and $65 for a one-year renewal. Those are the amounts the board charges by rule.

If the Legislature changes the maximums, the board would decide next year whether to change its rule.

The board operates as an extension of the state Department of Heatlh. The board’s executive secretary, Mitch Richter, said Tuesday the next step is to clear the proposals through the department.

Richter said department officials would decide whether the legislation should be offered for lawmakers to consider in the 2021 session.

The board in 2019 issued 803 renewals and 69 new licenses, according to page 09-21 of the governor’s latest budget proposal for state government.

Several board members spoke candidly before voting 5-0 to back both proposals Tuesday.

“I’m torn about the $200. I’ll just be honest with you,” one of them, Bridget Myers of Sioux Falls, said. She recalled starting out as a massage therapist 24 years ago when she wasn’t bringing in much money.

Myers said some massage therapists might look at different careers after losing business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Richter said massage-instruction schools continued to produce graduates but agreed with Myers that some therapists will get out. “It’s just part of the industry, I believe, at this point,” Richter said.

Al Trace, a board member who runs a massage center at Hermosa, supported the proposals.

“I’m good with the changes. My concern is we don’t price ourselves out of the market,” Trace said.

The board’s lay member, Lorin Pankratz of Sioux Falls, a long-time lobbyist at the state Capitol, said some massage businesses won’t come back but the timing was right to make the requests.

“It’s easier to explain to the Legislature that it gives you some leeway and you don’t want to have to be coming back, repeatedly, every couple years,” Pankratz said.

He noted that the second hurdle will come when the board decides whether to change any rules, because those would need clearance from the Legislature’s rules review committee.

The board also supported 3-0 that Richter should schedule a rules hearing for this summer on proposals that would include requiring licensees to notify the board of any name or address changes; accepting online and credit-card payments; establishing a renewal late fee; and putting continuing-education policies into rule.

Board members Fallon Helm of Aberdeen and Myers abstained, while Pankratz, Trace and chair Christine Ellwein of Pierre supported it.

The board also approved a new annual contract for Richter that he said was for the same $53,500 amount.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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