Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - Rainy weather hasn't let up here in central Texas. Lakes and dams are full and river systems saturated.

Central Texas hasn't been alone, weatherwise, with severe storms and flooding continuing to hit just about every zone from the Rio Grande Valley to the Oklahoma border.

Gov. Rick Perry, has dispatched relief agencies to many scenes. In the process, he said, "Rather than celebrating Independence Day at backyard barbecues with families and friends, many Texans spent the Fourth of July holiday battling the dangerous weather events that continue to impact their communities.

"We will continue to help local communities respond to emergencies and recover from the heavy storms and rains that have saturated a large part of our state and we will make sure the necessary resources are in place if the situation worsens."

Perry also urged Texans "to heed the warnings of their local leaders and take all possible precautions to stay out of dangerous situations as this severe weather continues."

Since mid-June, Perry has issued a state disaster declaration for 44 counties, namely:

Archer, Baylor, Bell, Blanco, Bosque, Brown, Burnet, Callahan, Coleman, Collin, Comanche, Cooke, Coryell, Denton, Eastland, Ellis, Fannin, Gillespie, Grayson, Hamilton, Hood and Hunt.

Also, Jones, Lamar, Lampasas, Lipscomb, Llano, Mason, McLennan,

Menard, Mills, Ochiltree, Parker, Runnels, San Saba, Starr, Stephens, Tarrant, Travis, Webb, Wichita, Williamson, Wise and Young.

President George W. Bush approved federal disaster declarations for Cooke, Coryell, Denton, Grayson, Lampasas and Tarrant Counties. U.S.

Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, who toured stricken areas, co-announced President Bush's disaster approval.

Among things the disaster approval does is allow uninsured individuals and families in eligible counties to apply for assistance in the form of financial aid, temporary housing, tax relief, legal services, crisis counseling and disaster unemployment assistance.

Tax penalty waivers available. There is still time left for certain folks to take advantage of Texas Comptroller Susan Combs' offer of a limited-time waiver of penalties and interest on unpaid taxes.

The waiver, which expires Aug.15, is available for all state taxes administered by the comptroller, except unclaimed property and the Public Utility Commission gross receipts assessment.

Eligible liabilities can relate to sales or purchases of taxable items.

Reports originally due before April 1 are eligible. But the waiver does not apply to assessments already identified by the comptroller, to taxpayers under audit or review, or to taxpayers the comptroller has already contacted about an audit or possible deficiency, the Office of the Comptroller said.

New tax law takes effect Legislation redefining "occasional sale" took effect July 1, and it has an impact on people who sell their personal property. HB 373 by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, amends the tax code to allow non-business sellers to sell up to $3,000 in a calendar year in certain merchandise without paying state tax if their items are purchased by Texas buyers.

DPS addresses new law hoax The Texas Department of Public Safety responded to false information about "new traffic laws" spreading quickly on the Internet and other media.

"There are no new traffic laws going into effect in July," the DPS said. "More specifically, there are no new laws going into effect in July related to cell phones, seat belts or carpooling. No cell phone bills were passed this Legislative session."

Parks & wildlife chief is named Gov. Perry named Peter Holt, CEO of the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, as chair of the nine-member Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission.