South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster sent a written return to the State Supreme Court Monday in response to the lawsuit filed Thursday by Chapin High School student Casey Edwards seeking a court ruling on whether the General Assembly can appropriate $700 million in stimulus money that Governor Mark Sanford has refused to apply for unless he can use it to pay down state debt.
The White House has said no twice to Sanford’s request. In his written response to the court McMaster stated he has no objections to the court hearing the case, however the dispute is still a public policy debate and it is still too early to label it a legal dispute.”You have the question of what can the Legislature do, the question of the Clyburn Amendment and because the legislative session is still going on then they are not through trying to work it out yet, so we think the court case is a little premature.”
McMaster says the plaintiff has used the Clyburn Amendment to the federal stimulus law as the foundation for filing the lawsuit, however McMaster, in his written response, states that the wording in the Clyburn Amendment does not accomplish the purpose of giving a state legislature the power to appropriate the stimulus funds over the wishes of the Governor.
McMaster says a joint resolution has the force of law although it is a short-lived law, for example, to put up a statue in a public place. McMaster adds that a joint resolution has the force of law because it goes through both the House and Senate and has 3 readings before it is passed. McMaster’s contention is that the Clyburn Amendment is a concurrent resolution that passed through the House and Senate one time and in effect does not carry the power of law a joint resolution does.
“A concurrent resolution just goes through each house one time and that’s all. That’s why they are used for congratulatory type things. The wording in the federal law refers to using a concurrent resolution which has no effect of law and doesn’t accomplish its purpose.”
McMaster says a concurrent resolution is usually used to commemorate events or formally recognizing persons for accomplishments. McMaster says there is no timetable for the State Supreme Court to hear the case, but he says it could happen soon as indicated by the court requesting his response only four days after the lawsuit was filed. McMaster says normally the court allows 20 days before a response.