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Bill seeks to prohibit Minnesota from buying Crystal sugar until lockout over

Ten Democratic-Farmer-Labor House members introduced a bill Thursday to forbid the state from sugar from American Crystal until the firm ends a lockout that's lasted more than seven months.

The bill was introduced just before today's deadline for a bill to pass its first committee, so it has little chance of getting a hearing. Its prime sponsor is Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul.

Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar Co. has locked out more than 1,300 workers since Aug. 1 in a labor dispute.

The bill reads: "The state of Minnesota and its departments and agencies shall not purchase products from Crystal Sugar or its subsidiaries until Crystal Sugar or its subsidiaries ceases all alleged unfair labor practices, whether past or present, that are prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act and rescinds the lockout of the workers with the purpose of resuming negotiations resulting in a collective bargaining agreement."

Kriesel stepping away

John Kriesel is leaving the Minnesota Legislature for his family.

After one term in the Minnesota House, Rep. Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, announced Thursday is not running again so he can spend more time with his wife and children.

"I will miss this, but this is the best decision for my family," he said in an interview.

Kriesel entered the House last year already well known to many in the Twin Cities. He lost both legs in the Iraqi war and received lots of publicity for that and a resulting book before running for office.

Now, he said, it is time to be with his sons and to allow his wife, Katie, to pursue her own goals.

Synthetic drug ban

A bill to broaden Minnesota's ban on synthetic drugs awaits a full Senate vote. A similar bill is ready for House debate.

The bills increase the penalty for selling the drugs to felony levels, meaning up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

"You hear it called synthetic marijuana from time to time, but this is more akin to LSD," Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay told the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. "There are enormous safety issues and health concerns for the people of Duluth."

Corn fuels at issue

A new way to turn corn into fuel prompted a debate about giving ethanol a continued priority.

Representatives of the Luverne, Minn., Agri-Energy plant owned by Colorado-based Gevo said current law forbids their new isobutanol product from being mixed with gasoline as ethanol now is. Both are made from corn.

"Current law needs to be changed to allow all biofuels, not just ethanol," General Manager Jay Sommers told the House agriculture committee Thursday.

The committee would not change the law immediately, but many members pledged to work after this session on a bill to allow isobutanol to be sold in Minnesota.

The discussion arose during debate on a bill by Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, to extend until 2016 a law requiring that 20 percent of gasoline sold in Minnesota be ethanol.

Corn growers fear without the extension, which awaits a full House vote, the ethanol industry may no longer continue to grow. Anderson's bill passed the committee 19-1.

House votes on teacher seniority, school aid

The House Thursday approved 74-59 speeding up payments to schools that were slowed when the state faces budget woes.

The bill also reduces the importance of seniority for teachers when school officials are deciding who to include in layoffs.

Wellstone honor wanted

Rep. Tom Rukavina wants a bust of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone to be placed in the state Capitol.

The Virginia, Minn., Democrat has introduced a bill to honor Wellstone, who died in a 2002 plane crash en route to the funeral of Rukavina's father.

The state Capitol bureau's Danielle Nordine contributed to this report.

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Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.