On June 17, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes, a Reagan appointee, ruled that a November 2010 ballot measure passed by the voters of Houston, Texas, is invalid. Here is the six-page opinion in City of Houston v American Traffic Solutions, Inc., southern district H-10-4545. There will be an appeal. American Traffic Solutions is the company that installs red light cameras at intersections.
Texas election law, and the Houston city charter, permit initiatives to amend to city charter, but there is no initiative process for ordinances. There is provision for referendums for ordinances, but referendum petitions must be filed shortly after an ordinance is passed by the city council. In 2004 the Houston city council passed an ordinance to use cameras to record cars running red lights. No one filed a referendum petition against that new policy in 2004. As time went on, popular discontent with the cameras increased, so in 2010 the city council, responding to popular opinion, put a proposed Charter Amendment on the ballot to ask the voters if they wish to eliminate the cameras. The voters passed it, but this decision invalidates the vote, on the grounds that an issue that narrow can’t be a Charter amendment. It is not clear why this case is in federal court instead of state court.