Today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed three bills to counteract the ‘malign’ influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.
“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I’m proud to sign this legislation to stop the purchase of our farmland and land near our military bases and critical infrastructure by Chinese agents, to stop sensitive digital data from being stored in China, and to stop CCP influence in our education system from grade school to grad school. We are following through on our commitment to crack down on Communist China.”
SB 264, Interests of Foreign Countries, restricts governmental entities from contracting with foreign countries and entities of concern and restricts conveyances of agricultural lands and other interests in real property to foreign principals, the People’s Republic of China, and other entities and persons that are affiliated with them.
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It also amends certain electronic health record statutes to ensure that health records are physically stored in the continental U.S., U.S. territories, or Canada.
Effective immediately, Governor DeSantis has signed Executive Order 22-216 to prohibit government entities from procuring technology products and services from companies owned by, controlled by, or domiciled in foreign countries of concern. The executive order directs the Department of Management Services (DMS) to promulgate rules and take any additional action necessary to ensure commodities and services used by state and local governments are not susceptible to exploitation by foreign countries of concern. This prohibits government entities from procuring or utilizing technology services that:
“With today’s Executive Order, Governor DeSantis takes decisive action to defend the State of Florida and all Floridians from the cyber threats posed by foreign countries of concern and associated groups,” said Department of Management Services Secretary Pedro Allende. “The Governor’s direction to develop cybersecurity and procurement rules and standards will make it harder for bad actors to gain a foothold on state infrastructure, will protect Floridians’ personal information and intellectual property, and will further secure key information systems and the critical infrastructure that our state and its citizens rely on each day.”
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- Have been determined by DMS to pose a risk to the safety and security of Florida due to the company’s connections to or use by a foreign country of concern;
- A federal agency has prohibited due to a national security concern; and
- Are designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by companies or affiliated companies determined by federal or state government agencies to be owned, controlled, or domiciled in a foreign country of concern.
This will help prevent the exposure of government information and technology services and systems in Florida to other state and non-state actors affiliated with a foreign country of concern.
Governor DeSantis also proposed legislative action to prohibit government entities from contracting with companies owned by, controlled by, or domiciled in foreign countries of concern if the contract would provide access to Floridians’ personal information. This prohibition would include the bidding, submitting a proposal for, or entering into or renewing a contract with a government entity if the contract would provide the company with access to an individual’s name in combination with a Social Security number, driver’s license, financial account numbers, medical history, insurance policy numbers, etc.
Purchases of Agricultural Land and Land Surrounding Military Bases
Governor DeSantis has proposed legislative action to prohibit purchases of agricultural land and land surrounding military bases by foreign countries of concern. There have already been instances of Chinese Communist Party-affiliated companies purchasing land near military bases in other states, including Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. Florida is home to 21 military bases from every branch of the armed forces, and while the state has allocated money to purchase land nearest to some of these bases to increase security perimeters, more needs to be done to protect our domestic national security assets.
As of 2019, foreign investors held an interest in 5.8% of Florida’s privately held agricultural land. This ranks Florida as the state with the fifth highest percentage of reported foreign-owned land. Thirty-one states have regulations in place for foreign ownership of agricultural land by law. In Iowa and Minnesota, no alien is allowed to acquire any interest in agricultural land.
“Food security is national security, and we have a responsibility to ensure Floridians have access to a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply,” said Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson. “China and other hostile foreign nations control hundreds of thousands of acres of critical agricultural lands in the U.S., leaving our food supply and our national security interests at risk. Restricting China and other hostile foreign nations from controlling Florida’s agricultural land and lands near critical infrastructure facilities protects our state, provides long-term stability, and preserves our economic freedom. This bill is long overdue, and I thank Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, House Speaker Paul Renner, Senator Jay Collins, and Representative David Borrero for their leadership on this issue and their commitment to protecting Florida and our security interests.”
Prohibiting Foreign Funds for Universities
Last year, Governor DeSantis signed HB 7017 to require the disclosure of foreign donations to state educational institutions in excess of $50,000. This “naming and shaming” approach was intended to expose the influence of groups such as CCP-funded Confucius Institutes, with further punitive measures for non-disclosure.
But even sub-$50,000 donations from individuals and groups pushing the agendas of hostile foreign powers on college campuses can undercut academic integrity, warp the perspectives of many students, and sway the research and writing of many professors to align with the interests and values of the sources of that funding.
That is why Governor DeSantis has proposed legislative action to amend Florida statutes relating to reporting requirements of foreign gifts to prohibit any gift to a higher education institution in Florida from any individual residing in or entity domiciled in a foreign country of concern or from any governmental entity within a foreign country of concern. A general bill on this topic could also impose additional restrictions, screening requirements, or pre-conditions on researchers from foreign countries of concern.
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