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Florida bills fighting foreign influence get Gov. Ron DeSantis' signature

'Florida is at the forefront of rooting out Chinese espionage efforts,' House Speaker Chris Sprowls says
Posted at 7:18 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 21:56:40-04

MIAMI — Florida's governor signed two bills Monday he said would help the state battle foreign influence from nations like China.

While in Miami, Gov. Ron DeSantis gave final approval to HB 7017 and HB 1523.

The first policy adds transparency, requiring higher education to disclose foreign gifts of $50,000 or more and requires rigorous screening of foreign researchers.

The other policy upgrades penalties for theft of intellectual property.

Florida HB 7017
HB 7017 adds transparency, requiring higher education to disclose foreign gifts of $50,000 or more and requires rigorous screening of foreign researchers.

While broad enough to cover influence from any nation, DeSantis took special aim at China. He called the country a "hostile foreign power."

"While China remains the biggest threat, numerous countries are working to infiltrate our state and nation," DeSantis said in a statement. "By signing these bills today, we are taking action to ensure foreign adversaries will not have unfettered access to our schools, government and companies."

House Speaker Chris Sprowls was a major advocate for the policy throughout the 2021 legislative session. He said new laws would give the state better tools to combat China's attempts to infiltrate.

"Florida is at the forefront of rooting out Chinese espionage efforts that have resulted in the blatant theft of our state's intellectual property and research," Sprowls said.

The Moffit Cancer Center and the University of Central Florida were two of the latest to report foreign interference.

Daisy Sim of Tallahassee fears new Florida laws, HB 7017 and 1523, will promote racist behavior.
Daisy Sim of Tallahassee fears the new Florida laws will promote racist behavior.

Critics, however, have called the policy red meat for DeSantis' GOP voter base. Others worry it will further a negative stigma towards Asian Americans after months of increased violence.

Daisy Sim, a Korean American and part-time advocate in Tallahassee, feared the measures would fuel racist treatment of Asian Americans.

"That people are coming to this country, and they are, you know, they're going to have these secret spies to take over this country," said Sim. “That's part of the 'Yellow Peril' myth that is, you know, here in our country."

Sim said she had experienced racism first-hand, everything from microaggressions to blatant slurs. She had concerns the policies were not worth the risk of making things worse.

"Even if it's targeting just China," she said. "I know it's going to find its way, you know people who can't tell the difference between a Chinese person and a Korean person."

The two policies take effect at different times. HB 701 becomes law July 1 and HB 1523 on Oct. 1.