If the young Butch Otter could talk to the older Gov. Butch Otter, he might ask him why he feels the need to sign a bill regulating massage therapy when in the mid-1970s, for example, he advocated for the deregulation of veterinarians.
Otter served in the Idaho House of Representatives from 1973 through 1978. Absent from elective politics for eight years, he then served 14 years as lieutenant governor followed by three terms in Congress before being elected governor in 2006. He first sought the governor’s chair in 1978, finishing third in the primary with 26 percent of the vote. The winner, Allan Larsen, captured 29 percent of the vote, but lost in the general election to John Evans.
The governor’s younger days as a lawmaker are sometimes in contrast to his time as governor when he signs or supports legislation that seemingly contradict the lawmaker he once was.
Otter said in a 2009 interview with the Spokesman-Review that his libertarian leanings as a state legislator produced a lot of “no” votes on his part, but not many accomplishments. He said in the interview he learned an important lesson from "an old cowboy by the name of Bill Lanting," speaker of the House at the time, who advised him: "Butch, there is absolutely nothing wrong with setting your goals ideologically, but you're gonna have to someday come to the realization that in order to get to those goals, you're gonna have to act pragmatically."
The massage therapy bill, according to Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, was an issue brought by massage therapists; therefore, the governor did not oppose it. “As it was brought by the individuals in that profession as a means of self-policing and self-governing their own profession, the governor did not see any reason to oppose the legislation,” said Hanian in an email to IdahoReporter.com.
The bill passed the Senate with little resistance, but skirted through the House on a 39-29 vote.
One of the legislators against the bill was Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian. He opposed the legislation for a couple of reasons. “One of the needs for the massage therapy bill was to make them (massage therapists) eligible for treatment under Obamacare,” Hagedorn said in an email to IdahoReporter.com. “I also think it was an intrusion of the state into private business that was not required. Nice to have in people’s minds, maybe, but not a need to have.”
The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), which pushed for the legislation, said the issue has been worked on for 20 years.
Trisha Pennell, president of the Idaho Chapter of the AMTA, said there were multiple reasons for the bill. “Massage therapy is an up-and-coming practice in the medical field. And, someone without training can actually do some harm to somebody, to a client, by either moving fluid too much or overstretching somebody … there are a lot of things that they can do to injure somebody so we felt that we needed to get some kind of law in place to protect the public.”
Pennell also said that the law helps distinguish actual massage therapists from prostitution. “We also wanted to get something in place because, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but massage therapy and massage is another name for prostitution, and so we wanted to kind of give us some distance from the other side of massage.”
AMTA Idaho represents around 300 members in the state of Idaho, said Pennell.