Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 17 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

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.


The Court of Appeals supported its reading of 14501(c)(2)(A) to disallow delegation from State to city in part by reference to the statute's deregulatory purpose. See Petrey, 246 F. 3d, at 563; accord, Stucky, 260 F. 3d, at 444-446; Tocher, 219 F. 3d, at 1048, 1051; R. Mayer, 158 F. 3d, at 546. We now turn to that justification.

The Conference Report on the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 observed that "[s]tate economic regulation of motor carrier operations . . . is a huge problem for national and regional carriers attempting to conduct a standard way of doing business." H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 103-677, p. 87 (1994). Carrying more weight, in the Act itself Congress reported its finding that "the regulation of intrastate transportation of property by the States" unreasonably burdened free trade, interstate commerce, and American consumers. Pub. L. 103-305, 601(a)(1), 108 Stat. 1605. Congress therefore concluded that "certain aspects of the State regulatory process should be preempted." 601(a)(2). These declarations of deregulatory purpose, however, do not justify interpreting through a deregulatory prism "aspects of the State regulatory process" that Congress determined should not be preempted.

A congressional decision to enact both a general policy that furthers a particular goal and a specific exception that might tend against that goal does not invariably call for the narrowest possible construction of the exception. Such a construction is surely resistible here, for 14501(c)(1)'s preemption rule and 14501(c)(2)(A)'s safety exception to it do not necessarily conflict. The problem to which the congressional conferees attended was "[s]tate economic regulation";

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