Legislature Approves Bill Eliminating Spotters For Water Skiers In Wisconsin

Bill Now Goes To Gov. Scott Walker For His Signature

Wisconsin state Capitol dome
vikramjam (CC-BY-NC)

Water skiers would no longer need spotters in Wisconsin under a bill that’s now headed to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk.

A spotter is someone who sits in the back of a boat to keep an eye on the person water skiing. Under a bill passed Thursday night by the state Assembly, that person would no longer be legally required in Wisconsin, as long as the boat has a rearview mirror.

Rep. Ron Tusler, R-Harrison, argued those mirrors are more helpful to drivers than spotters.

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“Because the mirror is always there for you and the driver has all of the responsibility,” Tusler said. “Generally with a spotter, a spotter is distracted, they’re bored, they’re sitting in a boat for a couple hours, they don’t keep the attention that they need to keep to do the job correctly.”

Democrats argued spotters are necessary for the safety of the skier and other people in the lake, like swimmers.

“Whether they’re swimming, if they’re diving, if they’re snorkeling, whatever they’re doing, as a driver you’re looking forward, you’re sitting forward, you have the big mirror, but that’s only 180 of 360 degrees that you’re able to see,” said Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie. “Safety is number one, we want to continue Wisconsin to be a safe state to do water recreation sports.”

The Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions supports the bill. The Badger State Sheriffs’ Association and Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association oppose it.

The bill passed on a vote of 63-29, with a handful of lawmakers crossing party lines. It passed the state Senate earlier in May.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email asking if Walker plans to sign the bill.