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Top Morning Stories September 1, 2011

A new study out of UT Austin ranks the university second in the nation for efficiency.
Photo by KUT News
A new study out of UT Austin ranks the university second in the nation for efficiency.

UT Study Ranks it 2nd in Efficiency

A new study says UT Austin is tied with the University of Illinois for second in the nation when it comes to the most efficient public universities. The study was done by an associate dean in UT's College of Liberal Arts.

The study compared how much money universities get in tuition and state funding with how good their graduation rates are, as well as how many professors they have.  The University of Florida was ranked number one in efficiency.

The study does say there is room for improvement at UT, especially in its four year graduation rates.  Just 53 percent of UT students graduate within four years. KUT's political reporting partner, The Texas Tribune, has posted a copy of the full report.

Chime in on Proposed Electricity Rate Increases

Austin Energy is holding a public hearing today on proposed rate increases.  The average customer could see their monthly bills increase $10-20 as soon as January.  Austin Energy says it’s been seventeen years since it last raised its base rate charged to everyone. Some people say the new rates would most adversely affect low-income customers.  Tonight’s meeting starts at six at Austin Energy's headquarters on Barton Springs Road.

Voter ID Law Taking Effect

Many new state laws go into effect in Texas starting today.  One of them is the controversial Voter ID law. Texans will be required to show a photo ID before casting a ballot at the polls. That won’t be required until 2012 but several outreach efforts will start soon.  Acceptable IDs include drivers’ licenses, personal ID cards, military IDs, passports, and concealed handgun licenses.  The DPS is also creating a new “election identification certificate," which will be issued free of charge for registered voters who don’t have other forms of photo ID.

Highway Speed Limits Changing

Drivers take note- speed limits on highways are now the same during the day and night, and trucks no longer have to drive at a separate speed limit. A new state law also allows the Texas Department of Transportation to raise maximum speed limits on some highways from 70 to 75 miles per hour. Changes will only be made in certain areas if TxDOT finds that increasing the limit would be “reasonable and safe.” A TxDOT news release explains what happens next:

"We will be removing the existing nighttime speed limit signs, truck speed limit signs, and evaluating approximately 50,000 miles of state highway with a current 70-mile hour speed limit," said CarolRawson, TxDOT Director of Traffic Operations. "With these contracts in place, we are moving steadily ahead to implement these new laws. However, it is important to remember that any increases to speed limits are not effective until the new speed limit signs are actually installed."