(The Center Square) - A bill has been filed in the Texas legislature that would ban citizens, governments and entities of China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from purchasing land in Texas.
Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst filed SB 147 to ban certain foreign governments and entities associated with them from purchasing real property in Texas.
It follows an executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last year but includes fewer countries and far less prohibitions.
The bill would prohibit certain foreign individuals or entities from purchasing or otherwise acquiring title to real property in Texas. They include a governmental entity of China, Iran, North Korea or Russia; a company or other entity that is headquartered in these countries or is directly or indirectly held or controlled by the governments of these countries; owned by or the majority of stock or other ownership interest of which is held or controlled by individuals who are citizens of these countries; or a citizen of these countries, among other stipulations, according to the bill language.
"The past several years have seen more Texans alarmed by the increased acquisition of land by primarily Chinese interests," Kolkhorst said in a news release. "The growing ownership of Texas land by some foreign entities is highly disturbing and raises red flags for many Texans. By comparison, as an American, go try to buy land near a Chinese military base and see how it works out for you. It would never happen there and it shouldn't happen here. Passing this law delivers some basic safeguards to ensure Texans remain in control of Texas land."
The bill was filed after the Texas legislature unanimously passed the "Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act" banning all contracts or agreements with foreign-owned companies related to critical infrastructure in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law in 2021.
The legislature acted after a Chinese billionaire and former Chinese People's Liberation Army general bought over 130,000 acres of land just miles from Laughlin Air Force base in Val Verde County, the largest air force pilot training base in the U.S.
According to a 2022 National Association of Realtors report, Chinese investors accounted for 6 percent of foreign buyers who spent over $6 billion on U.S. real estate between March 2021 and March 2022. Top foreign buyers were from Canada and Mexico.
Foreign buyers purchased the third-greatest amount of U.S. land in Texas of 8 percent. They purchased the most in Florida of 24 percent an the second most in California of 11 percent.
According to a Defend Texas Liberty PAC poll conducted last October among registered Republican voters, 82 percent agreed that "Texas should prohibit the Chinese government or Chinese citizens from purchasing land in Texas." Only 10 percent said it shouldn't.
While Kolkhorst's bill targets only the four countries and is related to real estate, DeSantis took action against seven countries and issued far broader prohibitions.
Last September, DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting government entities from procuring technology products and services from companies owned by, controlled by or domiciled in seven foreign countries of concern: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Russia and Venezuela.
Doing so would "curtail the nefarious intentions" of these countries in the areas of cyberspace, real estate, and academia to protect Floridians, he said.
His order directed the Department of Management Services to promulgate rules and take any additional action necessary to ensure commodities and services used by state and local governments are not susceptible to exploitation by these countries. It also prohibited state and local governments from procuring or utilizing technology services that DMS determined posed a risk to the safety and security of Florida due to the company's connections to or use by one of the seven countries, among other factors.
Doing so, DeSantis said, "will help prevent the exposure of government information and technology services and systems in Florida to other state and non-state actors affiliated with" the seven countries.
DeSantis also proposed legislative action to prohibit government entities from contracting with companies owned by, controlled by, or domiciled in the seven countries if the contract would provide access to Floridians' personal information and to prohibit any of the seven countries from purchasing agricultural land and land surrounding military bases in Florida.
Florida also changed its retirement system fund strategy to ensure state funds weren't invested in Chinese or "woke corporations."
It also banned Confucius Institute from Florida universities and colleges. The institutes were used to "bring propaganda into our universities, as if our universities don't have enough problems already," DeSantis said.