Republican lawmakers introduce legislation that would ban local officials from getting gifts from ‘countries of concern’

USA / China / Relations / Conflict / Flags
The bills' sponsors see the need to curb Chinese influence in local affairs, specifically.

The same transparency codes that apply to state lawmakers would apply to locals, according to companion bills filed for consideration next Session.

Local officials would be prohibited from accepting “anything of value” from “countries of concern” and local governments would have to create lobbyist registrations under similar bills (SB 734/HB 735) that Republicans Sen. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill and Rep. Alex Andrade of Pensacola filed Wednesday.

Those countries of concern are the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro, or the Syrian Arab Republic. It would also prohibit gifts from agencies that are under the ”significant control” of the countries on this list.

Ingoglia said the bill was introduced not because of a particular situation where someone was being unduly influenced. He said it’s a logical response to current circumstances.

“I think the Chinese Communist Party has gotten more aggressive in infiltrating regular U.S. institutions like universities, but also in buying the land in the United States,” Ingoglia said. ”We have to, unfortunately, play offense when it comes to dealing with the Chinese.”

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer said that Palm Beach County already has a lobbyist registration, and he agrees with the bills’ aim.

“I don’t think American elected officials should be accepting gifts from countries of concern or foreign governments generally,” Singer said.

Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller, who also served as a Senator, said that the bill would seem to prohibit even the most innocent sort of acceptance — such as getting an unsolicited pen or card in the mail.

“Am I going to know that it came from China?” he asked rhetorically, suggesting that gifts worth less than $5 should be exempted.

Ingoglia said local officials would be held to the same standards that lawmakers are under his bill. And it would be one of a slew of rules governing foreign influence from these countries that have been passed recently.

Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year signed legislation that restricts land ownership in Florida by Chinese citizens, bans the use of Chinese-owned social media platforms such as TikTok and WeChat on government devices and further limits colleges and universities from building relationships with those foreign countries singled out in state statutes.

But the land ownership prohibition is already in federal appeals court. After a U.S. District Court Judge refused to block the law the case headed to the 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals.

Andrade said he’s doing this so voters can know more.

“Government works best in the sunshine,” Andrade said, according to a prepared statement. “I look forward to working with Senator Ingoglia to inject more transparency and accountability in the process of governing.”

But Broward’s Geller raised the alarm that the parts of the bill that govern are distinctly undemocratic.

The bills would also make it so that County Commissions, School Boards and City Commissions or Councils can’t hire or extend contracts of Superintendents or general counsel or managers for the eight months immediately preceding elections, unless such contracts or contract extensions are approved with a unanimous vote.

That would make it so that one person on the elected body could fire key executives, Geller pointed out.

“Eight months is a long period,” Geller said.

But he does like another section of the bill that allows people on a governing body to be considered present and part of a quorum if they are able to see, hear and speak through technology as if they are physically present.

“There are some places where we’re having problems getting quorums in person,” Geller said.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Jamie Suans

    December 6, 2023 at 11:24 pm

    According to recent experience with a scientific event at the University of Miami, university leading system has enormous financial collaboration with Chinese scientific institutions. It was scary to physicians when we heard in a strategic event for a health education road a ping by very high-level attendees this year that was fully funded and infiltrated by the Chinese medical institute. All sessions and content were being managed by them and the host university acknowledged the funds and directions received from the Chinese medical institute for the next 50 years plan of medical education in the US!!

  • ChineseAreHumansToo

    December 6, 2023 at 11:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing your racist remarks with the world.

  • Sonja Fitch

    December 7, 2023 at 6:42 am

    The chances of monitoring these money actions is just like a lot of Florida, IGNORED! Wonder why? Money and power for the few! Hell with you and me. Vote Common Good!

  • Abram Nicholson

    December 7, 2023 at 10:50 am

    No politicians, whether Federal or State, should be accepting gifts of any kind from the government of any other country or state. And the approved law for “Citizens United should be overturned. These things are nothing but buying influence, better known as bribery.

  • Richard C Russell

    December 7, 2023 at 12:08 pm


  • rick whitaker

    December 7, 2023 at 3:54 pm

    abram, the supreme court that sponsored legal bribery with the citizens united ruling, loves gifts. thomas and alito are particularly fond of lavish gifts.

Comments are closed.


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