The Florida Legislature is working through two pieces of legislation aimed at curbing foreign influence in Florida’s colleges and universities, primarily research institutions.
The Florida House has already passed HB 7017 unanimously and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The bill will require state agencies and political subdivisions to disclose foreign grants and donations of over $50,000 or more to the state. Also, all donations of any size will be required to be reported from seven hostile nations. Among those nations deemed hostile are: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela.
The legislation comes on the heels of an investigation by the House Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions earlier this year into foreign influence on Florida’s universities, and they found most of Florida’s universities were under some sort of foreign influence.
Also, earlier this year, a Department of Justice investigation found University of Florida researcher, Lin Yang, was found to have not disclosed her relationship with the Chinese Communist government, and their support for her, while applying for federal grants. She was indicted and is facing six counts of wire fraud and four counts of lying to a federal agency.
Moffitt Cancer Center has also been under Florida House investigation for some of their employees being potentially tied to the Chinese. Howard McLeod, senior member in Moffitt’s department of cancer epidemiology, was found to have ties with China. Another employee, Yijing He, worked for Moffitt but, from exclusively from China. In all, the CEO of Moffit failed to disclose knowledge of support some of his staff had been receiving from the Chinese Communist Party.
The bill contains a provision where universities are expected to know when researchers have traveled to the hostile nations.
The Senate has a companion bill, SB 2010, and is similar to the House version, but the Senate bill has stricter requirements for universities to keep tabs of where their researchers are traveling. Sen. Manny Diaz (R-36) added an amendment to ensure protections for whistleblowers.
Governor Ron DeSantis has signaled his support for the legislation.
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