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Education, Addiction and School Safety Bills to be Filed in Upcoming Legislative Session

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Education, addiction and school safety are big topics expected to be tackled this year in Tennessee.

Many of the bills Tennessee lawmakers are talking about introducing come on the heels of tragedy in the state, including a disturbing case of corporal punishment News 4 exposed.

This past July we met Preston Garcia. His story prompted the Tennessee's Comptroller's office to investigate corporal punishment policies.

Preston has autism. His parents say he was slapped by a teacher while having a meltdown.

The News 4 I-team found that at 60 Tennessee schools, students with special needs are physically punished at higher rates than their peers without disabilities.

One lawmaker is hoping our report will help him do more. Rep. Jason Powell plans to file a bill that would ban corporal punishment for children with disabilities.

In May Powell told us, “I am hoping we can begin the conversation to say this is wrong."

Several bills aimed at combating the opioid epidemic are expected to be introduced this session,

“We really want to make sure this epidemic, what can be done, is on the forefront of our lawmaker's minds when they get ready to go back to their chambers,” said Brett Martin with Addiction Campuses.

Martin says 2017 was an even deadlier year than 2016, when 64,000 Americans died from an overdose.

"Let’s make a difference and make 2018 better than 2017,” said Martin.

On a federal level, Addiction Campuses also hopes the FDA will overhaul its opioid policies, and prohibit drug companies from promoting long-term use of opioids as safe and effected for chronic pain.

Another bill that will be filed is one requiring seat belts on school buses. The idea has been tossed around for years, but gained a lot of steam in Tennessee after a Nov. 21, 2016 bus crash that claimed the lives of six children in Chattanooga.

State Rep. Joanne Favors will reintroduce the bill. The law, if passed, could cost $15 million dollars a year.

“Well, you can’t put a cost on life. You can’t do that and so I’ll just continue to say that,” said Favors.

Lawmakers head back to Capitol Hill Jan. 9.

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