NASHVILLE (WATE) – The season for proposing, debating and voting on state laws and your tax dollars has returned.

The bang of a gavel meant the 109th Tennessee General Assembly was back in session. Lawmakers from East Tennessee say issues that will be brought up this legislative session include everything form legalizing medical marijuana to taking a closer look at UT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

They also say many of those topics will take weeks to discuss before any new laws are passed.

State Sen. Richard Briggs says be believes road construction and repairs will be among the big topics this year.

“That’s going to be huge because it’s very important to our state and on the health side, which I’m very interested in. We’re going to need to do more about the pill mills that are out of control and the Tennesseans that are dying of opiate overdose,” he said.

Briggs says the big question will be how to pay for it, specifically whether there will be a gas tax increase.

“We’re going to have to decide what the needs are and then how we’re going to pay for it. We could have toll roads. We can bond it. We could have a gas tax increase. I mean these are all things that are going to be on the table,” said Briggs.

State Rep. Eddie Smith agrees and says UT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion will be another hot topic.

“I believe it’s going to be talked about no matter what, but what I want to make sure is that we’re looking at this because there are some great things that the office for diversity does,” said Smith.

The Knox County delegation recently called for a special committee to investigate the office after the introduction of gender neutral pronouns and holiday party guidelines, both of which were eventually taken down from the university’s website.

“So we want to make sure we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and not only allowing UT, but all offices of diversity across the entire higher ed system to be able to come in, highlight some of their successes. We can talk about what led to where we are now,” Smith said.

Smith says he believes the joint committee about UT likely won’t be addressed during regular session.

Supporters of failed ‘Insure Tennessee’ plan rally at the state capitol

Meanwhile, supporters for Gov. Bill Haslam’s failed Insure Tennessee plan rallied to get the attention of lawmakers. They hope to revive the plan to eliminate a health insurance coverage gap.

Larry Drain was one of dozens at the rally and says it’s a cause near to his heart. Like others in the crowd wearing purple shirts and holding signs, he’s part of the health insurance gap in Tennessee. Drain had to divorce his wife so she could keep her insurance and now he needs an operation he can’t afford.

“Tennessee should be for all Tennesseans regardless of their economic status or of anything else,” said Drain.

After making the case in front of lawmakers last year, Haslam’s plan didn’t pass. Some compared it to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but people say it’s still needed.

“I think the need is growing bigger, not smaller so we hope, so we hope that it’ll happen this year,” said Pam Hindle.

Sen. Briggs says he believes it has a slim chance of passing this legislative session. He says he supports Insure Tennessee, but this isn’t the right time.

“It’s going to be real tough this session, but we’re really planting the seeds and setting the field for more action in the future,” said Briggs.

Supporters of the failed plain want lawmakers to know they’re here to stay.

“I hope that it gets the attention of legislators. I think there’s a lot of legislators that would like to see this go away and I think the message is this is not going to go away.”

Briggs says he thinks Insure Tennessee will have a better chance next legislative session because there will be a new Congress, president, and likely new attitudes in the legislature about the proposal.