How to Speak to Your Representatives About Medical Spa Law

Posted By Madilyn Moeller, Tuesday, July 12, 2022


By Patrick O’Brien, JD, Legal Coordinator, American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)

Your state laws and administrative rules have an incredible effect on how your medical spa operates. As AmSpa often points out, medical spas are medical practices. They employ doctors and nurses, and many also employ cosmetologists and aestheticians to provide salon services. So, even “simple” medical spas will be subject to multiple licensing board rule sets, several practice acts, and general business and employment laws and rules that all businesses have to navigate. That is all to say that you, as an aesthetic industry professional, have an interest in having “good” laws to work under.

The largest issue is that, frequently, the officials who propose, debate and vote on new laws may only have a basic—if any—familiarity with aesthetic medicine. They have, however, probably read some news articles that profile harmed patients or arrests for illegal practice. This doesn’t create a situation where nuance or practical considerations are likely to go into drafting a bill.

As a medical spa employee, employer or provider, you are vastly more knowledgeable about your industry and how current regulations impact it. Whether you want to propose your own bill or advocate for or against a current bill, you will need to get your message to the right people. So, how do you get in touch with these representatives and how do you get your point across?

The basic process

Every state handles its legislative process in a slightly different way, so you will need to become familiar with your state’s rules. For the purpose of this article, it is important to have a basic idea of the general steps a bill goes through before becoming a law and where you fit into them. Feel free to watch “I’m Just a Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock as a refresher. A senator or representative will introduce and sponsor a bill in their chamber—i.e. the senate or house of representatives/ state assembly. That chamber will usually refer the bill to a committee, which will review and hold hearings on the bill and recommend amendments or if it should pass or not. The whole chamber will then vote on the bill. If it passes, it is then sent to the other chamber; if it started in the house, it goes to the senate, and vice versa. That chamber will often refer the bill to its own committee to review and recommend amendments or passage. That chamber will then vote on passage of the bill.

Once a bill has passed both chambers, it is usually reconciled so that both senate and house versions, including amendments, are the same. After this is completed, it finally is sent to the governor, who either signs it into law or vetoes it.

Who can you talk to?

You can talk with your elected representatives at each step in this process. However, there are several points where your voice will be more influential than at others. The votes by the main bodies of the house or senate involve a lot of people and move very fast. Only causes that have many motivated voices are likely to have much effect here. This is the same when the bill reaches the governor’s desk; they are unlikely to veto a bill that has both chambers’ support unless they have a very compelling reason for doing so.

Conversely, the sponsor(s) of a bill and the committee members, for obvious reasons, have greater effective control over the content and success of a bill. Bill sponsors are listed on the bill, and their public webpages are typically linked from the legislature’s website. However, keep in mind that they are the ones who submitted the current language of the bill, so they already have a stance on the subject and may be less willing to come around to your point of view.

The committee will usually hold at least one public hearing on a bill. This gives the public, including interest parties (i.e. you) an opportunity to present testimony or evidence or generally speak in support or opposition of a bill.

The public hearing, though, isn’t the only opportunity to convey your viewpoint to the committee members. Each committee member is also an elected senator or representative who can be reached through their offices or official email and phone numbers. The webpages of the committee members are also publically listed on the state legislature’s website. Committee members, given their duty to review and consider bills, are likely to be more receptive to suggestions and feedback.

Administrative rules

Many of the above concepts will apply to administrative rules. The main difference is that administrative rules are debated and adopted by the licensing board. New or changed rules will be proposed by the board, often after internal committee development; this development process may include a limited hearing with invited stakeholders. Once a set of rules is formally proposed, the board will publish them in the state register and then hold a public hearing and comment period. This comment period allows the public to submit letters and suggestions. The hearing would provide the opportunity to speak directly to the board, usually in person, but also perhaps via phone or videotelephony as well.

To sum up: there are points where public input is requested in the law or rule creation process, but those are not the only opportunities medical spa owners and operators have to reach out and talk to the people with power in the process. The people who are on these committees or sponsor the bill are public figures and can be found on your state legislature’s website. The earlier in the process you can get in touch with them, the more likely your points will be heard and have an effect.

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