Out West Roundup: Nebraska could end licensing requirement for horse massage

Author: Associated Press - March 9, 2018 - Updated: March 28, 2018

Horse massageIn this March 1, 2018, photo, Jane Fucinaro works with 9-year-old Wakema during an equine body work session in Blair, Nebraska. A bill introduced by Nebraska state Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte proposes to exempt equine massage practitioners from state job licensing requirements. Under the current law, equine massage practitioners must have a massage therapist license or work under veterinary oversight. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)


A little tight? Nebraska could end horse massage licensing

LINCOLN — There are plenty of options for people looking for a massage in Nebraska, but if you’re a horse, you’re out of luck.

Nebraska doesn’t have a single licensed equine massage therapist, and lawmakers who recently chipped away at regulations governing various other professions blame an expensive and rigorous process that even includes the prospect of jail time for violators.

“It flies in the face of reason that you need that much more education just to massage a horse,” said Karen Hough, a rural Nebraskan who is unable to massage horses because of the regulations.

Horse massage sounds quirky, but it’s a common practice in much of the country for high-performance horses, helping to increase their range of motion and relieve tension.

Under the measure being debated this week in the Legislature, Nebraska would join 13 other states that don’t require licenses for massaging a horse. Most of the others don’t have the per capita horse count of Nebraska, where there are an estimated 150,000 horses — about one for every 12 citizens.

While horse massage is the current focus in Nebraska, it’s part of a larger national trend — particularly in Republican-controlled states — to reduce barriers to licensing, said Suzanne Hultin from the National Council of State Legislatures. In the 1950s, about one job out of 20 in the U.S. required a license. Today, around one out of every four professions is licensed, she said. Five states now don’t even require licenses to massage humans.

Obtaining an equine massage therapist license in Nebraska requires a veterinarian degree or completion of 1,000 hours of classes to become a licensed human massage therapist and an additional 150 class hours to receive an animal therapist license. No Nebraska schools offer the needed animal therapy courses.

In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services issued Hough a cease-and-desist notice after she called the agency to learn about becoming licensed. She was told she would have to stop massaging horses or face up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. She stopped doing the work and set out on what has become a seven-year quest to create new regulations.

“The kids were disappointed I couldn’t massage their horses anymore,” Hough said. “So I told them, ‘In America, we don’t break the law, we change it!'”

New Mexico

New Mexico governor OKs spending boost on police, teachers

SANTA FE — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez this week signed a $6.3 billion spending plan that boosts funding for law enforcement and public education, while reluctantly embracing a bipartisan package of public safety reforms that she described as flawed.

Martinez said she was grateful the Legislature set aside more money for public prosecutors in Albuquerque and State Police raises, but was disappointed in the level of funding for business incentives.

She noted that spending on teacher salaries statewide will increase by $63 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“I’m generally pleased with the budget that lawmakers sent to my desk,” she said at a news conference in Albuquerque. “We did all of this without raising taxes.”

The state Public Education Department was taken to court over accusations it fails to meet constitutional obligations to provide an adequate education for all students. Plaintiffs cited lagging academic proficiency and high school graduation rates that trail most of the country. A ruling is pending.

Martinez vetoed what she called wasteful spending proposals for a $50,000 bronze bust honoring a controversial Hispanic fighter in the U.S. Civil War and about $260,000 for an exhibit involving a robotic dinosaur at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. Infrastructure proposals were vetoed for state college campuses at Espanola, Gallup, Los Alamos and Las Vegas, New Mexico.

During a 30-day session that ended in February, lawmakers backed a package of public safety reforms designed to bolster police ranks, deter repeat drunken driving, increase gun-possession penalties for violent felons, and better address addiction and health issues among prison inmates as they are released.

Martinez, who is leaving office because of term limits, says she will leave state government with strong cash reserves of more than $600 million as a buffer against any economic downturn. Less than a year ago, the state was wrestling with how to fill a budget gap by slashing agency spending after completely depleting cash reserves.

State government income has surged because of a sustained rebound in oil prices and major investments by oil and gas exploration. The state’s unemployment rate was down to 6 percent in December from 7.6 percent when Martinez took office in January 2011. Only Alaska’s rate is higher.


Proposal to name highway for Trump faces opposition in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — A proposal to name a Utah highway after President Donald Trump is getting pushback from state Democrats, including one who said this week that he would suggest naming a ramp for porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

State Sen. Jim Dabakis said he’s trying to show lawmakers that many people would be offended by the idea of honoring Trump for his contentious decision to shrink two national monuments in Utah.

The president’s move received support from state Republican leaders who want the land open for potential oil, gas and coal use but angered environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts and Native Americans. Several groups, including outdoor retailer Patagonia, are suing over the decision, calling it the largest elimination of protected land in American history.

“I just want the Legislature to understand the level of disrespect that a lot of citizens are feeling by this notion of awarding him this most special byway in the United States,” Dabakis said.

Now named the National Parks Highway, it overlaps several roads as it connects a series of iconic national parks such as Zion, Arches and Bryce Canyon.

If the idea becomes law, Utah would spend $124,000 on signs for Donald J. Trump National Parks Highway. It’s been approved by a committee of lawmakers and is now paused in the House, where another Democrat is suggesting replacing Trump’s name with recently deceased Utah billionaire and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said that while he wanted the monuments scaled back, naming the highway for Trump might be premature.

“Typically, at least in Utah, we wait until people have left office and reward them for the work they’ve done, or sometimes even after they pass away,” he said.


Arizona court backs Hopi lawsuit against snowmaking

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona — The state appeals court has backed the Hopi Tribe’s effort to halt the use of treated wastewater in artificial snowmaking operations at a ski resort outside Flagstaff.

The ruling extends a lengthy battle between American Indian tribes and the Arizona Snowbowl’s snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks. At least 13 tribes consider the mountain on public land sacred.

The Hopis have argued that plants and other objects they gather from the mountain could become contaminated with chemicals in the wastewater and could no longer be used in ceremonies. They also say the wastewater could blow on shrines, springs and other sacred areas, negatively impacting them.

The tribe sued Flagstaff in 2011, alleging the city’s decision to sell wastewater to the Snowbowl causes a public nuisance. A Coconino County judge dismissed that and two other claims the following year, but the nuisance claim survived in a challenge to the appeals court.

In reconsidering the claim, the Coconino County Superior Court ruled in 2016 that the tribe didn’t show an injury unlike that suffered by the general public, which would be needed for the nuisance claim to advance.

The appellate court disagreed, saying the Hopi Tribe distinguished its cultural and religious interest in the mountain from the interests of skiers, hikers and other recreationists, without commenting on the merit of the tribe’s claim.

The case now goes back to the Superior Court.

Snowmaking at the resort began in 2012 to supplement natural snow and extend the ski season. With little snowfall, the resort has relied almost entirely on snowmaking machines this season and has about 75 percent of its runs open, a spokesman for the resort said.

Associated Press

Associated Press