While a number of seasoned lawmakers including Governor Mark Sanford and members of the General Assembly continue to wrestle over the issue of whether the Governor should accept $700 million in stimulus dollars, an 18 year old Chapin High School senior Casey Edwards has decided to take matters into her own hands by filing a lawsuit Thursday before the South Carolina Supreme Court for a judgment on weather the legislature can override Governor Sanford and appropriate the funds. Attorneys for the plaintiff Dwight Drake and Dick Harpootlian have asked the court to take the case in its original jurisdiction bypassing lower courts and issue a judgment that affirms the legislature’s responsibility to appropriate the funds as spelled out in the Clyburn Amendment to the federal stimulus law. Drake says the lawsuit is not against Governor Sanford, and the suit does not raise any questions concerning the Governor’s power.”All we’re contending is that sections B and C of the Clyburn Amendment make it crystal clear that the South Carolina General Assembly, just as was intended by Congressman Clyburn and the Congress of the United States, has the authority to receive and appropriate the money.”
Drake says if the court agrees with their request for an expedited consideration of the case, then the legal issue can be resolved with finality within the next 20 to 30 days.
Drake says the lawsuit does not involve a question on the constitutionality of the Clyburn Amendment. “There was an opinion from somebody that raised some 10th amendment questions that even when talking to the Attorney General I think one of the things we agree on is that’s just sort of a red herring. This is not a constitutional question. There’s no question about the constitutionality one way or the other. It is a pure, simple, but important question of interpretation of what does the words of the statute mean and what did Congress intend to do.”
Drake says the suit asks that a federal statute be interpreted in a state court and state courts routinely interpret federal statutes and federal consitutional provisions.
Edwards says she thought it was important to bring the lawsuit because many schools would be hurt if the stimulus money is not used to keep teachers on the job and maintain programs important to the education of her fellow students across the state. “I attended the Governor’s School in the Summer of 2008 and I saw the documentary “Corridors of Shame,” which caused me to realize that their are many schools in South Carolina that have conditions for their education that are much less than adequate and I had not seen that before because my school has provided me with a great education K through 12 so I decided to do something about it.”
Edwards says she is also afraid that a number of teachers at her high school that have helped her along the way may be terminated if the stimulus money is not added to the state budget for education.