Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two bills Monday aimed at combating the influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the U.S.
The first bill is intended to safeguard public institutions from “undue foreign influence,” DeSantis said at a press conference, noting that the bill will prohibit “agreements between public entities and the Communist Party of China or Cuba or any of these malignant forces.” The second bill criminalizes theft and trafficking trade secrets under Florida state law.
“Anyone who willfully, without authorization, steals or attempts to steal a trade secret and uses it for their own benefit will now face a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison,” the governor warned.
- Strengthens foreign financial connection vetting and disclosure requirements for entities seeking tax-payer funded grants or contracts from state agencies or political subdivisions.
- Creates heightened scrutiny of research grant applicants, foreign applicants for research positions, and foreign travel or activities of employees of major research institutions.
- Requires universities and colleges to disclose foreign donations and grants of $50,000 or more to the State University System Board of Governors or Department of Education. State agencies and political subdivisions are required to report foreign donations and grants of $50,000 or more to the Department of Financial Services.
- Prohibits specific agreements between state/public entities and the seven countries of concern (Russia, PRC, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela).
HB 1523 (Combatting Corporate Espionage in Florida Act):
- Creates new criminal offenses in Florida for the theft and trafficking of trade secrets.
- Anyone who willfully and without authorization steals or attempts to steal a trade secret and use it for their own benefit will now face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Individuals attempting to sell stolen trade secrets will face a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison
- If an individual or entity violates this law on behalf of a foreign government, the penalties are severely enhanced — reclassifying the felony one degree higher and increasing the offense severity ranking.
“I really hope that we’re going to have accountability for the origins of the COVID pandemic because this just did not need to happen,” DeSantis said Monday. “The Chinese Communist Party is primarily to blame, but there’s also American money that very well may have flown to Wuhan.”
The governor also said that he has viewed China as an adversary to the United States for a long time.
“The [World Health Organization] is in the pocket of the communist party of China. They basically were having everybody look the other way,” he said. “The idea was to try to whitewash the role of the CCP in this virus and it wasn’t just WHO, it wasn’t just bureaucracies. You saw the academic community largely circle the wagons and defend the CCP.”
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