The bill was pulled by its sponsor amid a backlash from anti-abortion groups and other interests.
A proposal to replace contested judicial elections with a system allowing voters to reject judges has been dropped amid opposition from groups against abortion and other interests.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, who sponsored the measure in the House, blamed the bill's demise on "ideologically driven special interest groups" that "twisted arms." He said Monday that he pulled the bill after it became apparent that it would be defeated or changed dramatically.
Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, who chairs the committee that was to consider the bill, confirmed that groups opposing abortion and the Tea Party movement fought it. But Mullery said most of the legislators on his committee opposed the bill for other reasons.
"A lot of people didn't want to take away the right of people to vote" in contested judicial elections, he said. "It definitely didn't have enough votes to pass."
The proposed retention election system involved an advisory panel that would rate judges before an election. If voters gave a thumbs down, the judges would step down and the governor would appoint a replacement.
The legislation called for giving voters in the November election the power to amend the state constitution to replace contested elections with retention.
Proponents say a retention system would lessen the likelihood of overly partisan contests where judges are encouraged to take positions on issues that could come before them.
Opponents say fears of political taint are overblown. A retention system, they say, would deprive voters of a choice between two candidates and encourage elitist selection.
"We're opposed to it," said Scott Fischbach, executive director of the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. He said eliminating contested elections is "never a positive thing ... when you're trying to change the law, which is what we're trying to do. It's another hindrance in us trying to change the law."
He cited a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling expanding state funding of abortions as an example of the kind of ruling his group would like to reverse or avoid in the future.
DFLers lead both the House and Senate, but Simon said about one-fourth of them are against abortion rights.
Chief Justice Eric Magnuson is among those who support a retention system.
"Along with my two immediate predecessors, I continue to strongly support the proposal to move to retention elections, and trust that the citizens of Minnesota will eventually be given the chance to be heard on the issue," Magnuson said after Simon pulled the bill.
The retention bill also was supported by the state Chamber of Commerce, the state AFL-CIO, League of Women Voters and other groups.
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