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Minnesota News Roundup: Ford Ranger plant to be demolished beginnig today

Demolition begins this morning at the old Ford Ranger pick-up truck plant in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It employed a number of workers from western Wisconsin when it closed in December of 2011. The plant was among the last vestiges of the Wisconsin's auto industry, after the General Motors' plant in Janesville and Chrysler in Kenosha closed the past few years. A number of Wisconsinites still work at Chrysler's plant in Belvedere in northern Illinois, east of Rockford. Wrecking crews in Saint Paul are expected to take a couple years to tear down the 125-acre plant. Project manager Merritt Clapp-Smith says the old Ford plant is in a prime location along the Mississippi River in Saint Paul. Clapp-Smith says Ford hopes to put the site on the market in 2015.


The U-S Senate is scheduled to vote on the Farm Bill later today (430pm CT). Former Agriculture Secretary and now Senator from Nebraska Mike Johanns says it not the kind of bill he would have written, but says it's better that no farm bill. The biggest change in this farm bill from years past is the elimination of direct payments the federal government gives to farmers, even when their yields are high. It instead includes a "risk management system" that supports farmers only when they are hurt by weather disasters or fluctuating commodity prices.


The University of Minnesota Board of Regents votes later this week (Fri) on President Eric Kaler's budget plan which includes a freeze on undergraduate tuition. Regent Laura Brod says she's a bit worried that spending increases will eat up the freeze and students will have another "big leap" in tuition in a couple of years. Kaler says he shares her concerns, but contends increased efficiency will help the -U- reduce costs -- and he says the conversation will continue with state lawmakers about investing in the University of Minnesota.


The University of Minnesota isn't the only higher education system freezing in-state tuition. Minnesota state colleges and universities are implementing a tuition freeze for the next two academic years. Chancellor Steven Rosenstone says the average tuition at the system's colleges will be 48-hundred dollars and the average at the universities will be about 58-hundred. He says MnSCU is also committed to saving 44-million dollars through efficiencies, cost controls and administrative reductions over the next two years.


Senator Al Franken says the issue of mental health care in public schools is an important and needs resolution. He first introduced legislation to address the issue in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, but the amendment was included in the gun control bills, which died in Congress in April. Franken says he's reintroduced the amendment as part of the Strengthening America's Schools Act, which is also meant to reform the 2001 No child Left Behind Act.