WJTV News Channel 12 - Florida Legislature passes massage bill after 8 On Your Side inv

Florida Legislature passes massage bill after 8 On Your Side investigation

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TALLAHASSEE, FL (WFLA) -

The Florida Legislature passed a bill Tuesday inspired by an 8 On Your Side investigation of sex offenders who hold state licenses for massage therapy.

One of them assaulted Lisa Spiegel during a massage in Tampa last year and then resumed his work as a massage therapist in St. Petersburg, even after becoming a registered sex offender on probation for his crime.

"Somebody's got to be accountable," Spiegel said last November. "How many times has this happened?"

An 8 On Your Side investigation uncovered eight registered sex offenders practicing massage therapy across Florida with the blessing of the Florida Department of Health, which spends millions to regulate the profession.

That news investigation caught the eye of Republican State Senator Jack Latvala who represents Pinellas County in the state legislature.

"It kind of opened my eyes to the situation," Latvala told News Channel 8.

Latvala drafted a bill that basically bans sex offenders from practicing massage therapy and requires criminal background checks on massage therapy applicants by the Department of Health.

Democratic State Rep. Carl Zimmerman of Clearwater co-sponsored a similar measure in the House.

Moments before the state senate voted unanimously to approve the legislation and send it to the Governor's office, Latvala credited WFLA for motivating him to draft the measure.

Massage therapist Courtney Oliver of Brandon, told News Channel 8 it will bolster her profession.

"You'd think it would be common sense," said Oliver.

Like state lawmakers, Oliver believes that sex offenders have no business working as massage therapists, much less licensed by the state.

"It ruins our name for us," said Oliver. "And our credibility."

Governor Scott must approve the measure before it becomes law. He can choose to sign it, veto it or let it pass into law without his signature.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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