Florida lawmakers introduce bill to combat Chinese Communist Party influence on college campuses
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined new legislation intended to protect public institutions from foreign influence and that would penalize those who do not comply with transparency requirements.
Proposed legislation would require institutions of higher education to report any foreign gift of $50,000 or more, and outlines seven “countries of concern.”
Florida state lawmakers are currently working with Gov. Ron DeSantis on legislation aimed at combatting foreign influence on college campuses in the Sunshine State, including by imposing a ban on the creation of any Confucius Institute.
According to First Coast News, the legislation, SB 2010, would require the state to monitor foreign gifts to colleges and universities, ban taxpayer money from funding foreign cultural centers on campuses, and "place strict vetting" on foreign applicants for some research positions on college campuses.
The proposal would “require every public institution of higher education to report any gift of $50,000 or more received directly or indirectly by any foreign government or foreign person," according to DeSantis (R), who spoke during a press conference on March 1.
Along with monitoring foreign gifts, the legislation would “place strict vetting and review processes for foreign applicants to important research positions.”
“Over the last decade the communist party of China has been meticulous and deliberate in their economic infiltration across the globe,” stated DeSantis. “The growing presence of these Chinese communist party influence in domestic and international affairs is one of the most pervasive threats to American security and prosperity.”
[RELATED: Biden quietly nixes Trump-era rule combating Chinese Communist-funded 'propaganda' centers]
DeSantis talked extensively about foreign influences in Florida and other states across the country that led to arrests and were directly linked to institutions of higher education.
He stated that the “Chinese communist party’s mass infiltration and theft of American research is well documented, resulting in numerous arrests at college campuses across the country just within the last couple of years.” DeSantis also stated that he will allow the attorney general to “take action against any noncompliant institution.”
The governor specifically pointed to seven “countries of concern” which include China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russian, Syria, and Venezuela. Any person or institution who wishes to obtain a grant from the state of Florida for more than $100,000 will be required to disclose any ties with these countries, including previous donations or contracts.
[RELATED: Chinese state media accuses US of racism after MIT prof is arrested for China ties. Here's what MIT had to say.]
DeSantis further emphasized that the state will “modernize Florida law to include theft from cloud technology and create a third-degree felony for a person who commits theft of a trade secret and a second-degree felony for trafficking in trade secrets.”
Florida State House of Representatives Speaker Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Republican, was among those who joined DeSantis during the news conference. He spoke extensively on past issues of foreign influence at the University of Florida and University of South Florida. He stated that “we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the depth of China’s influence and gathering operations.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @abbyystreetman