Larry C. Harris


Since Gibbons v. Ogden, courts have wrestled with the problem of state legislation which affects interstate commerce. This problem is due to the fact that the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution is silent as to whether states can regulate interstate commerce in the absence of federal regulation. Some authorities argue that federal power is exclusive. Others argue that, absent federal legislation, states are free to regulate interstate commerce. The United States Supreme Court has taken a middle ground, usually upholding nondiscriminatory state regulations in areas which do not require uniform national standards. The Supreme Court has been reluctant to overturn state highway safety regulations, according them a "strong presumption of validity." In particular, limitations on truck lengths have been considered especially appropriate for state regulation. But in the recent case of Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp., the Supreme Court held unconstitutional as violative of the Commerce Clause an Iowa statute generally barring sixty-five-foot twin-trailer trucks from state highways. Kassel marks a departure from the Supreme Court "hands-off" policy towards state highway safety regulations and could further restrict states' powers to prescribe such regulations.


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