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State Sales Tax Collections Continue To Drop & Nightly Roundup


By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX –

Texas state sales tax collections for July were down 11.6 percent compared to last July. That's the word Friday from Comptroller Susan Combs.

The state collected $1.65 billion in sales taxes for the month.

Combs blames the drop on continued weakness in major economic sectors, such as retail trade, oil and natural gas, and construction. She also says the July 2008 collections with which they're compared were unusually strong.

Combs sent $544 million in August sales tax allocations to local governments, down 6.8 percent compared to the previous August.

Watson says he won't run for governor

Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson says he's running for re-election to his current post in 2010 and won't run for governor.

The Austin senator said "countless conversations and a ton of consideration" went into his decision. He made the announcement on his Web site Friday.

He said he likes serving in the Texas Senate and that he wants to spend time with his younger son as he begins his high school years. However, Watson said he believes he would win the race for governor if he ran.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer welcomed Watson's announcement. He said men and women of his character and capability are needed in the state Senate.

Lawmaker linked to Web pyramid scheme

Hundreds of people participated in what investigators say was a pyramid scheme at the urging of state Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio.

The Republican lawmaker says he thought the company involved was a legal marketing firm. The company was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission.

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reported Friday that Wentworth said his income tax returns for 2006 showed he made less than $1,000 from the Internet digital music sales company BurnLounge as an "independent contractor."

In 2007, the FTC shut down BurnLounge with a federal lawsuit. It accused the company, its chief executive and its top three money-producing promoters of running a pyramid scheme.

No criminal charges were brought in the case.

Sheriff seizes 76 starving horses in North Texas

Animal control officers are seizing 76 emaciated Arabian horses from an equestrian farm near the North Texas town of Pilot Point.

Denton County Sheriff's spokesman Tom Reedy says the horses are being moved Friday to a nearby ranch after they were found in various stages of starvation. That's despite bales of high-quality hay on the property.

He added that deputies acting on an anonymous tip also found stalls filthy with feces and urine. Reedy said the farm resembled "a concentration camp for horses."

Reedy says the owner, Gordon Dennis Key, will be arrested on charges of cruelty to livestock. A message left at his home by The Associated Press was not returned. Pilot Point is 43 miles northwest of Dallas.

Texas 'fight club' defendant sentenced to 3 years

A Texas man who instigated fights among the developmentally disabled at a state-run living center has been sentenced to three years in prison.

A Nueces County jury on Friday spared Jesse Salazar the maximum punishment for his role in what police called a "fight club" at the Corpus Christi State School. The 25-year-old faced up to 10 years after being convicted of intentionally causing injury to a disabled person.

Salazar and five other former workers at the facility were charged with staging fights among residents, who are some of the most physically and mentally vulnerable in Texas.

Salazar is the first sent to prison in the abuse scandal.