Gold Stars: A Few Things the Legislature Did Right

Haters gonna hate. But despite all the damage, despite all the drama, the Legislature actually did pass a few bills that help people instead of hurting them:

Bicyclists: The Legislature loves its cars and trucks, but this year the cyclists got a little affection, too. SB 1171 increases penalties for motorists whose failure to yield right-of-way results in accidents—currently the only penalty is a ticket.

Beer drinkers: Wine drinkers didn't get much love this session, but beer drinkers got lucky—although mainly due to business interests happening to coincide with their own. SB 1224 allows breweries across the state to create high-gravity beers (up to 20 percent alcohol by weight) without having to get a separate distillery license. It remains to be seen whether the legislation will lure brewer Sierra Nevada to Alcoa, however.

Victims of domestic violence: In a rare proud moment for Knoxville legislators, Rep. Ryan Haynes and Sen. Jamie Woodson ensured joint, unanimous passage of HB 375/SB 476, which defines attempted strangulation as aggravated assault. The bill won't solve domestic abuse, but it gives Tennessee one of the toughest strangulation laws in the country.

Kids: Not only did the Legislature pass a law requiring insurance companies to cover children's hearing aids (HB 761), they also made child custody decisions more child-friendly, requiring judges to take into account the location of the residences of the parents and the recognition that both parents should be allowed to participate as fully as reasonable in the life of the child.