State Rep. Gary Elkins of Houston, a Republican who led opposition to camera enforcement of red lights in the 2003 Legislature, already has filed a bill to kill the ordinance council passed this week. At least two Democratic lawmakers, Sylvester Turner and Garnet Coleman, also oppose it.
"We are very supportive of the city on a lot of things it wants to do, but the city has got to know the Legislature has been adamantly opposed to red-light cameras during at least the last five sessions," Elkins said.
Elkins said he has met with many area legislators, and there is "overwhelming support" to put a roadblock in the way of Houston's ordinance. The city hoped to start using cameras to issue tickets in at least 10 dangerous intersections by April, and to expand the program to as many as 50 intersections.
Elkins said he is worried that vendors of camera systems, who are frequently paid a portion of ticket revenues, will manipulate the timing of traffic lights to issue more tickets and maximize profits.
Such accusations were leveled against vendors in California lawsuits that led to the dismissal of hundreds of tickets.
"The potential for greed will lead to a potential for manipulation," Elkins said.
The city has not yet decided if it will pay a vendor chosen through competitive bidding a flat fee or a percentage of ticket revenues.
The Democratic legislators voiced privacy concerns.
"There's been a proliferation of cameras to monitor people, particularly by cameras controlled by the government," Coleman said. "What (state) legislators make decisions on and what the city makes decisions on are totally different. We as state legislators look out for things like privacy rights."
Mayor Bill White said it will be one of his top priorities in the legislative session to convince lawmakers not to fight Houston's ordinance, citing national studies that show red-light cameras have increased safety in many of the more than 100 cities that use them.
"If the people in Austin don't want us to use technology, then we'd be happy if the state gave us more money to hire more officers," White said.