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WASHINGTON --Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and other members of the National Lieutenant Governors Association discussed free trade Wednesday with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council.

They focused primarily on the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Griffin said the new deal is better than its predecessor.

"The intent is to have free and fair trade and, to be frank, to fix some of the issues that we had with agriculture and dairy and some other things in NAFTA. I'm convinced it does that. I'm convinced that it is a great proposal for Arkansas and the country," Griffin said in an interview.

"I think it will allow us to expand exports and trade, which is a good thing. Particularly agriculture," he said. "I think there are huge opportunities here for us."

He expressed hope that both parties will come together to support the new agreement.

"Trade should not be a partisan issue," Griffin said. "It benefits people in red states and blue states. All states."

Arkansans lobby for health centers

More than two dozen Arkansans traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to lobby for funding for community health centers.

The Natural State has 12 of these health centers and they provide services at 130 sites, according to officials with Community Health Centers of Arkansas.

They saw 210,000 patients in 2017. The state's population is about 3 million.

Last week's trip coincided with an annual policy and issues forum organized by the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Advocates hope Congress will pass a five-year extension for the Community Health Center Fund.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 authorized $4 billion in spending for 2019.

A bill backed by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., calls for level funding over the next five years.

A separate bill, championed by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., would raise funding by $200 million per year, resulting in $5 billion in funding by fiscal 2024.

A third proposal, championed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would raise funding levels by 10 percent each year, reaching $8.2 billion in fiscal 2024.

The Arkansans spent time on Capitol Hill, meeting with U.S. Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Rogers, and U.S Rep. French Hill, a Republican from Little Rock.

The state's senior senator always finds time for the group when it visits, said LaShannon Spencer, chief executive officer of Community Health Centers of Arkansas.

The battle for funding is perennial.

"We constantly have to actually show our value," she said.

The health centers "are a success story in Arkansas," she said. "Health centers actually demonstrate the communities can improve health, reduce health disparities and generate taxpayer savings."

Boozman honors Senate trailblazer

U.S. Sen. John Boozman paid tribute to one of his predecessors, U.S. Sen. Hattie Caraway, during a speech last week on the Senate floor.

Caraway, a Democrat from Arkansas, was the second woman to serve in the U.S. Senate and the first to win election in her own right.

Appointed to the Senate seat in 1931 after the death of her husband, Thaddeus Caraway, she won a special election, which allowed her to complete her late husband's term.

She would go on to win two more terms.

"She broke barriers, changed norms and helped lay the foundation for the new role women were beginning to ... play in the Senate," Boozman said.

The path for women that Caraway helped to blaze "has, without a doubt, made the Senate a better, stronger institution," Boozman said.

March is Women's History Month.

Thus far, 56 women have served in the Senate, including Blanche Lincoln, the incumbent Boozman unseated in 2010.

Women comprise one-fourth, or 25 percent, of today's Senate membership.

During his speech, Boozman highlighted the role of women in the military and stressed the importance of empowering women around the globe.

Huckabee corrects elocution on Shiloh

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee went with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the West Bank earlier this month, stopping to visit the ruins of Shiloh, roughly 20 miles north of Jerusalem.

According to the biblical account, Shiloh was once Israel's primary place of worship; the Ark of the Covenant was originally kept there and the high priests offered sacrifices there before the construction of Solomon's Temple.

Huckabee has visited Israel dozens of times over the years -- enough that he knows how to pronounce the name of the place.

American Christians, it turns out, have been saying the word incorrectly since time immemorial.

"My whole life, I've called it 'Shy-low.' In every sermon I've ever heard anybody talk about it, it's 'Shy-low.'

But in Israel, the pronunciation is 'Shee-low,'" he said.

"If I say 'Shy-low,' they wonder what Confederate memorial I'm talking about," Huckabee quipped.

Israel seized the West Bank during the Six-Day War in 1967. For years, the U.S. State Department referred to the area as "Israeli-occupied." This month, it changed the description to "Israeli-controlled."

Since the opening of a museum at Shiloh, tourism there has skyrocketed, climbing from 30,000 in 2009 to 120,000 in 2018, The Washington Post reported. More than half of those visitors, like Huckabee, are evangelical Christians, officials said.

Planning to visit the nation's capital? Know something happening in Washington, D.C.? Please contact Frank Lockwood at (202) 662-7690 or flockwood@arkansasonline.com. Want the latest from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Washington bureau? It's available on Twitter, @LockwoodFrank.

SundayMonday on 03/31/2019

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