Two cases were argued in South Carolina Supreme Court today to decide if Governor Mark Sanford can refuse part of federal stimulus money set to come to South Carolina.
The plaintiffs in both cases argue that the governor must take the funds, as directed by the state legislature when it passed a budget that included the funds, and then overrode the governor’s veto of that budget.
If the situation sounds complicated, it is, according to attorneys on the governor’s side. Not so, according to plaintiff’s lawyers, who say the state constitution clearly and rightly allows for the will of the people (legislature) vs. the will of one executive power.
Attorney Dick Harpootlian contends that South Carolina’s constitution eschewed the idea of a strong executive because of the tyranny of England in the American Revolution. Harpootlian is the attorney in the first case, that of high school student Casey Edwards and a law school student, Justin Williams, versus the state and governor. Harpootlian set up his side of the case:
Governor Mark Sanford earlier this year “certified” those funds, per the federal act that allocates the money. Certification was the first step in the process of “drawing down” certain monies from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. That action was the focus of some of the Supreme Court’s questioning Wednesday.
Sanford’s acting attorney for this argument, Adam Charnes, argued that the governor was unwittingly compelled to agree to terms in the stimulus bill that are “not true”:
Interchange between Justice Toal and Sanford’s counsel showed that part of the case’s outcome may hinge on the wording of the federal bill that provides the funding in the first place.
Sentence diagramming with Justice Toal (MP3 (1:29)
Chief Justice Jean Toal afterward says she plans to rule in the next day or two. If the high court rules for the plaintiffs, this will allow the state to meet a July 1 federal deadline to apply for $700 million in stimulus money for education and law enforcement. Within that are funds for the SC Supreme Court.
LINK to lawsuit papertrail.