Rep. Anthony Hartsook’s massage trafficking bill advances in House committee hearing

By Rocky Mountain Voice Staff

A bill by Rep. Anthony Hartsook, R-Parker, which would add certain mandatory criminal background investigation requirements of massage facilities in an effort to curb human trafficking, advanced Tuesday in the Colorado House.

Colorado has seen numerous arrests in the past few years related to human trafficking at massage parlors, including in Denver in 2022 and in Jefferson County in 2023, Hartsook wrote in a press release.

House Bill 24-1371 would advance discretionary local regulatory authority of massage establishments to a requirement.

“This bill will establish a mandatory national fingerprint background check of all employees and owners for these types of facilities,” Hartsook said. “It will deter bad actors from trying to move to Colorado and establish illicit massage facilities. It will also require existing employees and owners that do not have a national background check to undergo a background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

The bill passed the House Transportation, Housing and Local Govenment Committee with a 10-1 vote, and has been assigned to the House Committee on Appropriations, although a fiscal note indicates no appropriation would be necessary. It would create $14,062 in revenue and $7,266 in expense in fiscal year 2025-26, the fiscal note reads.

“While most of these businesses are legitimate, this legislation will act as a safeguard to ensure they are not used as a vehicle for human trafficking,” Hartsook said.

The bill would require counties, municipalities and local governments to establish a local licensing process that includes submitting a national background check through their local law enforcement by July 1, 2025. Additional licensing criteria will continue to be optional for local governments, the release reads.

The new bill, if it became law, would strengthen HB 22-1300 which, despite having provisions for background checks and specified disqualifying offenses, has proven to be ineffective, Hartsook said.

The bill will also prohibit individuals with convictions or accepted pleas related to human trafficking, drug trafficking or money laundering from owning or working as employees in such facilities. It empowers the local licensing authority to suspend or revoke the license of any massage facility found to have an ineligible owner or employee under the provisions of the bill.