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Senate panel advances legislation to crack down on illicit massage parlors

ATLANTA — State Sen. Cecil Staton’s effort to crack down on illegitimate massage parlors moved passed committee Thursday with new sanctions for parlor owners instead of just the women who work there.

Senate Bill 364 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously, and Staton, R-Macon, said he hopes to see the bill before the full Senate next week, or the week after.

The bill strengthens current massage laws on several fronts, and makes it clear that local governments can regulate parlors and spas. Though dozens of other Georgia communities have local ordinances, the city of Macon had resisted making its own rules because of concerns that it wasn’t authorized to get involved.

Some believe the city’s reluctance has contributed to the proliferation of shady massage parlors and spas in Macon.

The latest version of Staton’s bill would hit parlor owners with a fine of up to $5,000 if they allow unlicensed workers to perform massages or, more to the point, if their parlor is simply a cover for an illegal sex operation.

A previous version of the bill focused more on the people performing the massages, or other acts.

“If you’re in this business and you own or operate one of these things, you’d better watch out,” Staton said Thursday.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 361-2702.

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