holiday set Aug. 17-19

Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - The annual state sales tax holiday is Aug. 17-19 and Texas shoppers will get a break from state and local sales taxes for most clothing and footwear priced under $100.

Lay-away plans can be used again this year to take advantage of the sales tax holiday.

For the first time backpacks under $100 specifically used by elementary and secondary students also are exempt. The new exemption includes backpacks with wheels, provided they can also be worn on the back like a traditional backpack.

Comptroller Susan Combs estimates that shoppers can save about $8 on every $100 they spend during the state sales tax holiday.

Examples of items that qualify for the sales tax exemption include baby clothes, boots, diapers, neckwear and ties, pajamas and swimsuits.

Items not covered in the holiday include belt buckles, most sport specific shoes such as baseball cleats, purses and jewelry.

This year the annual sales tax holiday was moved to the third weekend in August to better coincide with the first day of school.

“The Legislature voted to change the date of the sales tax holiday because schools are opening later in many districts, “ Combs said. “Most families take advantage of the sales tax holiday to buy back-to-school clothes for the kids.”

TPWD to hire 200 new workers

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is adding 200 new employees to state parks after receiving increased funding from the Texas Legislature during this year’s session.

The staffing increase is the first for the state park system in many years and follows several lean years where the department was forced to make major cuts to park services, staffing and hours of operation.

The available positions will be advertised through the TPWD Web site and will be filled in September and October.

“We’re looking for people who are really excited about helping take care of some of the most special places in our state, folks who are interested in a long-term career with Texas State Parks, “ said Walt Dabney, TPWD state parks director.

Gov’s speechwriter resigns

Gov. Rick Perry’s director of communications, Eric Bearse, resigned Aug. 6 to form his own consulting business, specializing in speechwriting, public affairs and political consulting.

For the last nine years, Bearse has been Perry’s principle speechwriter, authoring two inaugural addresses, the governor’s initial oath of office speech, four State-of-the-State speeches, and three Republican state convention speeches among nearly 2,000 speeches given by Gov. Perry since 1999.

Carrollton rep gets pacemaker

State Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital Aug. 6 with a low heart rate. On Aug. 8 he received a permanent pacemaker and flew home a day later.

Jackson was in Boston attending the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting.

AG alerts parents to toy recall

The Office of the Attorney General is urging Texas consumers to stop using certain toys after Fisher-Price and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall due to potential lead poisoning hazards.

According to the safety commission, toys and figures bearing the likeness of characters from Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and other popular children ‘s programs contain surface paints with excessive levels of lead, which could be toxic if ingested.

More than 950,000 of the recalled toys were sold nationwide from May 2007 to August 2007. The products were sold both alone and as parts of sets. The toys are all marked with “Fisher-Price” and may have a date code between 109-7LF and 187-7LF marked on the product or packaging.

A detailed list of the recalled toys can be found on the Attorney General’s Web site at