Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 27 (2002)

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Scalia, J., dissenting

This relatively modest burden on the "historic powers of the States" to delegate authority to political subdivisions, Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U. S. 452, 461 (1991) (internal quotation marks omitted), is unambiguously imposed by the statute. The Court repeatedly emphasizes the fact that 14501(c)(2)(A) declares that 14501(c)(1) shall " 'not restrict' the existing 'safety regulatory authority of a State,' " ante, at 438—which, it says, "includes the choice to delegate . . . to localities," ante, at 439. This entirely begs the question, which is precisely whether the statute's reference to the authority of a "State" includes authority possessed by a municipality on delegation from the State. As I have described, the text and structure of the statute leave no doubt that it does not—that "State" does not include "subdivision of a State." Even when we are dealing with the traditional powers of the States, "[e]vidence of pre-emptive purpose is sought in the text and structure of the statute at issue." CSX Transp., Inc. v. Easterwood, 507 U. S. 658, 664 (1993) (emphasis added); see also Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U. S. 218, 230 (1947).

to "enforce" rules adopted under its "safety regulations." Ante, at 435- 436. But the conclusion that 14501(c)(1) prevents a political subdivision from enforcing regulations enacted by the State can only be reached by ignoring (for this issue) the rule that the Court is so insistent upon elsewhere: that federal interference with the "historic powers of the States" must be evinced by a "plain statement," Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U. S. 452, 461 (1991). A natural reading of the phrase "a . . . political subdivision of a State . . . may not enact or enforce a law"—and a reading faithful to Gregory's plain statement rule—is that a political subdivision may not enact new laws or enforce its previously enacted laws. The Court believes this reading "raises the startling possibility," ante, at 436, n. 3, that 14501(c)(1) prevents States but not political subdivisions from enforcing previously enacted state regulations relating to motor carriage of property. I think not. A possibility so startling (and unlikely to occur) is well enough precluded by the rule that a statute should not be interpreted to produce absurd results. The municipalities' reserved power to enforce state law does not include the power to enforce state law that the State has no continuing power to enact or enforce.

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