Observer Law

2005 effort failed. 2006 effort still in process, looking good. Please see minutes after this year’s annual meeting to be held on 5/13/06 for update.

Another attempt at passing a bill to allow a wide-angle rearview mirror in place of an observer while water skiing failed again this year, 2004. Approximately 15 avid water skiers, both competitive and recreational, including several AWSA-rated drivers attended a House Transportation Committee meeting and provided testimony. Of the 11 members on the Committee, there were about half that were “friendly” to this issue and the other half seemed to be very disinterested.

Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to authorize an individual to operate a vessel which is towing a person on water skis, or similar apparatus, without another person in the vessel, provided the vessel is equipped with a wide-angle rearview mirror.

Making attempts to pass this bill are time-consuming, and the committee members often change yearly resulting in the need to “educate” the new reps each year. A long-time GMWS member who has moved to Virginia, Carol Brown, worked on this project several years and wrote the following summary of the process.

The process for creating a new law or changing one is not simple. The bill must be assigned to a House Committee that will hear testimony and review the bill before voting on it. If the committee votes favorably, the bill is then sent to the Floor of the House for the entire House of Representatives to vote on. If it passes the House, it is then assigned to a Senate Committee. The Senate Committee then must follow the same procedure. If the Senate Committee passes it on to the Floor of the Senate and they vote favorably, it can then be sent to the Governor for his approval. Then it becomes law.

It is Sec. 1.23 V.S.A. ยง 3315(a) of the General Assembly of the State of Vermont that we are attempting to amend. The bill goes something like this (don’t have the current copy, this one is from several years ago, will be updated as soon as possible):

A person shall not operate a vessel on any waters of this state for towing a person or persons on water skis, aquaplane, kite skis, surfboard or similar device unless the person being towed is wearing a United States Coast Guard approved personal floatation device and unless there is in the vessel a person who is at least 12 years old, in addition to the operator, in a position to observe the progress of the person or persons being towed; or the vessel is equipped with a wide-angle rearview mirror. Persons engaged in barefoot water skiing may elect at their own risk to wear a non-Coast Guard approved barefoot wetsuit designed specifically for this activity.

Carol also wrote a very comprehensive letter explaining the benefits of passing this bill. Topher Sharp and Bruce Epstein have worked hard on the passage of this bill during and after Carol’s efforts.

We believe we need to show a substantial membership along with next year’s efforts. We have, therefore, temporarily suspended the need to pay dues to be a member of this Club. Because our inexpensive dues allow us some financial flexibility, we encourage you still to put the check in the mail. We recognize that sometimes that is logistically the hardest part and that it is easy for you to take the time to join by simply filling out our membership application. PLEASE DO SO. We do not post membership on the website because we have not gotten everyone’s permission, NOR do we have everyone’s email address, which would make this task much easier. Please encourage your friends to join and to provide their email addresses.