Advisory Nonpreemption

Sarah E. Light

We are living in an era of dramatic and unpredictable technological and business innovation. Federal agencies have been at the forefront of updating substantive legal rules to meet new challenges not originally contemplated by Congress. Yet some innovations—for example, autonomous vehicles—also upset longstanding allocations of authority between the federal and state governments. Significant uncertainty about whether local or national concerns will predominate as innovations develop requires temporary flexibility in allocations of regulatory authority. This Article identifies a new method that federal agencies can use to promote such flexibility before the initiation of a rulemaking or before Congress acts to address such disruptions—advisory nonpreemption. Ordinary preemption shifts the balance of power from the states to the federal government. Advisory nonpreemption has the opposite effect. Advisory nonpreemption can open a dialogue among the federal government, the states, interest groups, and industry not only about the best substantive rules to address innovation, but who ought to govern and enforce those rules. Most importantly, advisory nonpreemption is a method of inserting de facto dynamic jurisdiction temporarily into an existing dual federalism scheme. This Article both describes advisory nonpreemption and defends its use as a normative matter using autonomous vehicle safety regulation as a case study. The approach’s costs in temporary regulatory uncertainty are outweighed by its benefits in promoting innovation, transparency, and the public interest.