The Senate and House continued to diverge on legislation cracking down on China and other hostile nations buying land near military bases until Thursday evening, when the House accepted the last Senate amendment.
SB 264 was substituted for the House equivalent (HB 1355) from Republican Rep. David Borrero and Democratic Rep. Katherine Waldron. But an amendment required the Senate to reconsider the bill it passed. That led to another Senate amendment and the bill going back to the House.
The House wanted to block foreign countries of concern and their agents from owning farmland or property within one mile of a military installation. That was 20 miles in the first Senate version of the bill.
The Senate amendment accepted finally by the House changes that to a 10-mile limit, and reinstates buffer zones around military installations and critical infrastructure facilities.
It limits foreign nationals to coming in and purchasing more than one property within five miles of the installation, while requiring an affidavit attesting a lack of ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
The one-mile limit, said Senate sponsor Jay Collins, would allow for visual surveillance, but a 10-mile limit offered more comfort.
House sponsor David Borrero said “this is the best version for the state of Florida,” even as Democrats, including House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell, balked before the 95-17 vote.
Driskell objected to a potentially “overbroad … lack of definitions” that could leave Florida open to discrimination claims against “folks of Chinese origin.”
The bill bans companies tied to countries of concern — China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Cuba and North Korea — from doing business with Florida’s government.
Parties doing business with the state would have to attest to not being controlled by hostile foreign regimes, and governmental agencies would be blocked from soliciting bids or negotiations from these compromised countries by year’s end. Contracts could not be renewed with those companies after July 1, 2025.
The bill also mandates that the offsite storage of certain personal medical information must be in the continental United States, a territory of the United States, or in Canada.
Finally, the bill enhances penalties for extortion by a “foreign agent who acts with the intent of benefiting a country of concern,” making the crime a first-degree felony with a potential 30-year prison term as punishment.
This legislation was foreshadowed by Gov. Ron DeSantis denouncing the Communist Chinese government.
In The Villages back in January, he promised a tough ban “as broad as possible,” against land purchases and offered scenarios illustrating the danger.
“Just imagine, not that they would sell it here in The Villages, but just imagine that the (Chinese Communist Party) had a company buying subdivisions in the Villages,” DeSantis said. “Would you want that to be happening? Of course not. You don’t want them buying farmland, controlling our food supply. You don’t want them near military bases. But do you want them building a resort in Florida either? I don’t.”
He said similar things earlier in the year as well.
“If you look at the Chinese Communist Party, they’ve been very active throughout the Western Hemisphere in gobbling up land and investing in different things,” the Governor said at a previous presser.
“And, you know, when they have interests that are opposed to ours, and you’ve seen how they’ve wielded their authority — especially with President Xi (Jinping), who’s taken a much more Marxist-Leninist turn since he’s been ruling China — that is not in the best interests of Florida to have the Chinese Communist Party owning farmland, owning land close to military bases.”