Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 10 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 424 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U. S. 218, 230 (1947)). Furthermore, Justice White explained:

"The principle is well settled that local governmental units are created as convenient agencies for exercising such of the governmental powers of the State as may be entrusted to them in its absolute discretion. The exclusion of political subdivisions cannot be inferred from the express authorization to the States because political subdivisions are components of the very entity the statute empowers." 501 U. S., at 607-608 (internal quotation marks, citations, and alterations omitted).

This case is a closer call than Mortier. Here, the general preemption provision, 14501(c)(1)—from which 14501(c) (2)(A) excepts "the safety regulatory authority of a State"— explicitly preempts regulation both by "a State" and by a "political subdivision of a State." The exception for state safety regulation is the first in a series of four statutory exceptions to the preemption rule. The third exception in the series, covering regulation of prices for nonconsensual tow-truck services, matches the general preemption provision; it explicitly applies to the "authority of a State or a political subdivision of a State." 14501(c)(2)(C). States and their political subdivisions are likewise linked in almost every other provision of 14501. See 14501(a), 14501(b)(1), 14501(c)(3)(A), 14501(c)(3)(B), 14501(c)(3)(C).

Respondents Ours Garage and TRAO, in line with several Courts of Appeals, home in on the statute's repeated references to both States and their political subdivisions; in contrast, they urge, the singularly bare reference to "[s]tate" authority in 14501(c)(2)(A)'s exception for safety regulation must mean that Congress intended to limit the exception to States alone. See Brief for Respondents 15-16, 26-29. Respondents rely particularly on Russello v. United States, 464 U. S. 16 (1983). In that case, we observed: "Where Congress includes particular language in one section of a statute


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