Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 26 (2002)

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

Scalia, J., dissenting

eral Government with the States' "traditional prerogative . . . to delegate their authority to their constituent parts" has long been a subject of considerable debate and controversy. See, e. g., Hills, Dissecting the State: The Use of Federal Law to Free State and Local Officials from State Legislatures' Control, 97 Mich. L. Rev. 1201 (1999).

With such major impositions as these already on the books, treating 14501(c)(1) as some extraordinary federal obstruction of state allocation of power is absurd. That provision preempts the authority of political subdivisions to regulate "a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . or any motor private carrier, broker, or freight forwarder with respect to the transportation of property." (Emphasis added.) The italicized language massively limits the scope of preemption to include only laws, regulations, and other provisions that single out for special treatment "motor carriers of property." 14501(c). States and political subdivisions remain free to enact and enforce general traffic safety laws, general restrictions on the weight of cars and trucks that may enter highways or pass over bridges, and other regulations that do not target motor carriers "with respect to the transportation of property." In addition, the exception contained in 14501(c)(2)(A) allows a State—but not a political subdivision—to apply special safety rules (rules adopted under its "safety regulatory authority") to motor carriers of property.4

n. 4, infra, the statute at issue here is no different. Under 49 U. S. C. 14501(c)(1) and (c)(2)(A), a State may enact regulations pursuant to its "safety regulatory authority" and rely on localities to enforce those regulations.

4 This interpretation of the statutory scheme "introduces an interpretive conundrum of another kind," the Court asserts, because 14501(c)(1) declares that a political subdivision may not "enact or enforce" laws, regulations, or other provisions relating to motor carriers of property. Ante, at 436. In the Court's view, if the term "State" does not include "subdivision of a State," 14501(c)(1) will prevent a State from relying on localities


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