Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 3 (2002)

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426

COLUMBUS v. OURS GARAGE & WRECKER

SERVICE, INC.

Syllabus

ated to exercise such of the State's powers as the State may entrust to them in its absolute discretion. Mortier, 501 U. S., at 607-608. In contrast to programs in which Congress restricts that discretion through its spending power, 14501(c)(2)(A) evinces a clear purpose to ensure that the preemption of States' economic authority over motor carriers of property "not restrict" the preexisting and traditional state police power over safety, "a field which the States have traditionally occupied." Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 518 U. S. 470, 485. Preemption analysis "start[s] with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States were not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress." Ibid. Because a State's "safety regulatory authority" includes the choice to delegate power to localities, forcing a State to refrain from doing so would effectively "restrict" that very authority. Absent a basis more reliable than statutory language insufficient to demonstrate a "clear and manifest purpose" to the contrary, federal courts should resist attribution to Congress of a design to disturb a State's decision on the division of authority between the State's central and local units over safety on municipal streets and roads. Pp. 432-440.

(b) Contrary to the Sixth Circuit's reading, declarations of deregula-tory purpose in the statute and legislative history do not justify interpreting through a deregulatory prism aspects of the state regulatory process that Congress determined should not be preempted. Giving 14501(c)(2)(A)'s safety exception the narrowest possible construction is resistible here, for that provision does not necessarily conflict with Congress' deregulatory purposes. The area Congress sought to deregulate was state economic regulation; the exemption in question is for state safety regulation. Local regulation of tow-truck prices, routes, or services that is not genuinely responsive to safety concerns garners no exemption from preemption. The construction of 14501 that respondents advocate, moreover, does not guarantee uniform regulation. On their reading as on petitioners', for example, a State could, without affront to the statute, pass discrete, nonuniform safety regulations applicable to each of its several constituent municipalities. Furthermore, 31141—which authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to void any state safety law or regulation upon finding that it has no safety benefit or would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce—affords a means to prevent 14501(c)(2)(A)'s safety exception from overwhelming Congress' deregulatory purpose. Pp. 440-442.

(c) The Court expresses no opinion on whether Columbus' particular regulations, in whole or in part, qualify as exercises of "safety regula-

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