TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 1/7/13

Momentum is growing for Texas lawmakers to commit large amounts of money to address the state's long-term infrastructure needs, particularly water and transportation.

With more than 25.6 million people spread across roughly 260,000 square miles and two time zones, the issues important to Texans vary as vastly as the terrain. Every two years, when lawmakers gather in Austin with a list of legislative priorities, a picture of what's important where comes into focus. Over the past month, we've traveled across the state to find out what voters hope their lawmakers will fight for on their behalf during the 83rd Legislature.

The state Legislature is diverse in some ways and homogenous in others. Here's a look at Texas' 83rd class of lawmakers, from their employment and higher education to their age, gender and demographics.

Texas lawmakers may have $29 billion more to spend on the state budget this session than they did in 2011. Now, Gov. Rick Perry is floating the idea of tax cuts.

After successfully fending off another challenge to his speakership, Joe Straus faces a tough task in the session. He will have to tackle issues that have been thorny for Republicans in the past, without further alienating the far right.

Here's a cool time lapse video of the opening day of the 83rd Legislature on Tuesday, as the Capitol welcomed legislators, their families, staff, lobbyists and hundreds of other Texans.

As they contemplate whether to expand Medicaid, Texas lawmakers will weigh factors including enrollment growth, costs and savings, and the effects on the rate of insured. This interactive breaks down the numbers connected to those factors. 

Reform advocates are hoping for comprehensive changes to immigration policies, as President Obama has promised, but short of that, there are still plenty of ways to fix existing policies and arcane laws, they say.

Kerry Max Cook, who spent two decades on death row for a 1977 murder, says the prosecutor in Smith County is fighting dirty in his mission to stymie the ex-inmate's efforts to prove his innocence.

A new report questions the history course offerings at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, which could signal the return of contentious debate over what professors should be teaching the state's students.

Check out full video of our TribLive conversation with Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams.

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