A Chapin High School senior has filed a lawsuit asking the S.C. Supreme Court to decide who -- Gov. Mark Sanford or the Legislature -- controls $700 million in disputed federal stimulus money.
In an indication it could act swiftly, the court ordered S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster to respond to the lawsuit by Monday.
Casey Edwards, the 18-year-old who filed the lawsuit Thursday, said S.C. students and schools are suffering from budget cuts and would benefit from the money.
In a statement, Sanford –- who has gained national attention for his anti-stimulus position amid speculation he might run for president in 2012 –- called the challenge a "politically-driven press spectacle ... rather than a suit with any actual merit."
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For weeks, Sanford and lawmakers have been at odds over whether to include $350 million in federal money in the state’s budget for the year that starts July 1. More than 80 percent of that money must be spent on K-12 and colleges, according to federal rules.
An additional $350 million can be spent the following year.
Sanford must apply for the money before it can be sent to South Carolina. The Republican governor has said he will not ask for it unless lawmakers agree to pay off an equal amount of state debt.
A clause in the bill –- inserted by U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. -– was intended to allow lawmakers to accept the money if Sanford refused it, but legal questions have cut off that avenue.
"I've had a great experience in my Chapin schools," said Edwards, who said she sold Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches to raise money for a Dillon County school last year after seeing a documentary on the poor conditions at schools along the Interstate 95 corridor. "Every student should have that same quality of education."
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