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Iowa massage businesses could face extra regulation under new law

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Iowa cities will be allowed to require special licenses for massage businesses in an effort to crack down on human trafficking.

On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill into law which allows Iowa cities to further regulate massage parlors. For example, communities can choose to require a special license or background check before allowing a new massage business to open.

Advocates say the change could help cut down on illegal activity.

"Really, this came out of the fact that across the state of Iowa, and really across the Midwest, there have been multiple cases now of massage parlors that have been popping up that have been known or suspected fronts for human trafficking," said Cathy O'Keeffe, director of Braking Traffik of Family Resources.

The law was inspired by Johnston, Iowa, which requires a special license for new massage businesses. The Johnston mayor said she hopes her town can become a model for other communities.

"Part of the intention with this law is recognizing people in their own communities know and understand what's 'normal' and what seems suspicious," said O'Keeffe.

In Iowa, massage therapists are already required to attend a state-approved school and go through hundreds of hours of training before receiving a license from the state.

Some local therapists, though, said they would still support the extra regulation.

"I personally am aware of several businesses in the Quad City area that have therapists that are trying to fly under the radar and have therapists that are not licensed," said Darin Oberhart at Quiet River Massage Therapy. "I think it would be good to help to eliminate some of those."