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HOUSTON A federal judge has ruled that Houston s red light camera referendum was illegal.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes said Friday that the issue as presented on the November ballot violated Houston s city charter covering the repeal of an ordinance. Hughes said the election was too late.

Traffic signals by cameras may be good policy, or it may be bad policy, said Hughes. This decision is not about wisdom or preferences. The court simply must enforce the rules.

That means the city government could once again start sending out tickets to drivers photographed running red lights. Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the city council will have to vote on that.

Again this is something we are going to have to navigate through, said Mayor Annise Parker. The important message is [that] we need time to process this.

The decision, though, will be complicated. Because the cameras are run by a private contractor, the city may have to pay millions to get out of the current contract.

The 70 cameras were turned off last November after about 53 percent of voters narrowly approved the referendum.

City officials said they generated some $44 million in revenue.

Since November, there have been conflicting studies about the effects of turning off the lights.

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