Panama City, FL –
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) – Gov. Ron DeSantis promulgated two bills on Monday intended to limit the influence of foreign governments over state agencies and higher education institutions because it specifically targeted the China.
The laws were developed during the 2021 legislative session in response to high-profile cases in Florida involving medical researchers and academics.
“There is not a single entity that wields a more pervasive and nefarious influence over a wide range of American industries and institutions than the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said from behind a podium proclaiming “Stop the CCP influence “to Florida National Guard Robert A. Ballard Armory in Miami.
As support grew in the scientific community to explore the possibility that COVID-19 emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, DeSantis also used the Miami look to pretend the lab was the source of the pandemic.
“It’s pretty clear that this was a virus that almost certainly escaped this Wuhan lab,” DeSantis said. “It is a laboratory where these scientists worked closely with the Chinese Communist Party.”
China has repeatedly denied that the lab was responsible for the virus’ leak. Former President Donald Trump, a political ally of DeSantis, has long accused the lab of being the source of the virus, and President Joe Biden last month called for a further investigation based on US intelligence.
Other possible explanations are that the virus was spread by wild animals such as bats.
“While two elements of the (intelligence community) lean towards the first scenario (zoonotic) and another towards the second (the leak from the laboratory) – each with low or moderate confidence – the majority of elements do not think that there is enough information to assess that one is more likely than the other, ”Amanda Schoch, deputy director of national intelligence for strategic communications, said in a May 27 statement.
The bills DeSantis signed on Monday were unanimously approved by lawmakers in the legislative session that ended on April 30.
One of the bills, dubbed the “Anti-Florida Business Espionage Act” (HB 1523), will come into force on October 1 and lead to second degree felony charges for “trafficking in secrets. commercial ”. If it turns out that people have smuggled trade secrets for the benefit of a foreign government, the penalty would be a felony in the first degree.
The other bill (HB 7017), which will come into force on July 1, creates new reporting obligations for entities applying for state grants or contracts.
Under this measure, entities such as state agencies and universities will be required to report receiving gifts or grants “from any foreign source” valued at $ 50,000 or more.
Persons and entities seeking grants or state contracts over $ 100,000 will be required to disclose any contracts, donations or grants binding them to China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria.
State universities and other entities with research budgets of $ 10 million or more will also need to create an “international travel approval and monitoring program” as part of the measure.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, pointed to the inappropriate ties to Chinese entities that led to the resignation of senior officials from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa in 2019 as an example of the impact on taxpayers of Florida. Moffitt receives state taxpayer money.
“It is being used to get into our research institutes and to steal taxpayers in Florida, to steal our intellectual property that is working hard to bring it back to China, so that they can use it against American researchers, that they can use it against American companies and beat America on the world stage, “Sprowls said.” And that’s what it’s all about today. “
Sprows also referred to the US Department of Justice in February indicting former University of Florida professor and researcher Lin Yang, a 43-year-old Chinese national accused of fraudulently obtaining $ 1.75 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Investigators said Yang received a grant to develop “a computer imaging tool for muscles known as a ‘Muscleminer'” and worked on the project from 2014 to 2019. But Yang simultaneously started a business in China and, according to the Department of Justice, “promoted their company in China by claiming that their products were the result of years of research supported by millions of dollars in US government funding.”
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