On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and state House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, and members of the Florida House and Senate to highlight proposed legislation to combat foreign influence and corporate espionage in Florida.
“For far too long, the Communist Party of China and other foreign adversaries have been deliberate in their economic infiltration of other nations, the United States in particular,” said DeSantis. “China has made it a mission to steal intellectual property from our businesses, our government, and our academic institutions – all to further fuel their global objectives. I’m pleased to be joined by Speaker Sprowls and legislative leaders to stand against these practices by placing necessary, strategic safeguards against China and foreign influence to protect Florida’s schools, governmental entities and more.”
“When the Select Committee on Integrity of Research Institutions gathered about a year ago, we started peeling back a network of espionage and foreign interference in our universities and research institutions,” said Sprowls. “We found that there are no limits to the depths to which other countries, especially China, will go to steal our science and technology. Foreign adversaries use our university systems, local governments, research institutions, and companies to intimidate, influence, and steal their way to strategic advantage. Today, we are introducing legislation to combat foreign influence in our public institutions and prevent corporate espionage in Florida. We are fortunate to work with Governor DeSantis, who understands these threats, along with Chair Grall and Representative Beltran, who will be spearheading these efforts in the House.”
The proposed legislation would place strategic safeguards against foreign influence by strengthening institutional vetting and applying strategic protections for Florida’s education system, governmental entities and more. The legislation would also bolster Florida’s law enforcement agencies to investigate and apply penalties for corporate espionage that benefits a foreign government.
Preventing Foreign Theft and Interference
Key provisions of proposed legislation to prevent foreign theft and interference are as follows:
Protecting Institutions of Higher Education
- Every higher education institution, including their DSOs and foundations, will have to report any gift received from a foreign source that is $50,000 or more. Disclosures will be made to the Board of Governors or the Department of Education.
- Random audits by state inspectors general will review at least 10 percent of the foreign gift agreements.
- Research institutions will monitor foreign travel and provide an annual report of work-related foreign travel and activities listing travelers, locations and foreign institutions visited.
- Research institutions will more fully screen foreign applicants for research positions.
Safeguarding Public Entities and Recipients of Public Grants or Contracts
- Every state agency or political subdivision must disclose any grant, money, gift or anything of value worth more than $50,000 from any foreign source to the Department of Financial Services within 30 days of receipt.
- Private entities that apply for grants or want to do business with the state of Florida or receive large grants must disclose financial ties worth more than $50,000 with China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, or Venezuela or their agents.
- Public entities are prohibited from entering into agreements or accepting donations to set up propaganda missions of China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria and Venezuela. These countries of concern exploit cultural agreements to influence and push their agendas on the state and local level.
“I believe that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the depth of foreign nations’ intelligence gathering,” said state Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach. “The legislation we are rolling out today continues our good work from last year on the House’s Select Committee. Colleges, universities and public entities in Florida must be held to a standard of disclosure and transparency when they are accepting gifts – especially from a foreign adversary. This legislation helps safeguard America and Florida’s innovative intellectual property, research and science by shining a light on foreign gifts to reveal the truth.”
“Today’s legislation exposes how countries steal taxpayer-funded research and ideas and try to influence our academic institutions,” said state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah Gardens. “With this legislation, Florida is putting America’s adversaries on notice: your interference and influence will not be tolerated.”
Combatting Corporate Espionage in Florida
- Key provisions of proposed legislation to combat corporate espionage in Florida are as follows:
- Modernize the terminology in trade secret theft crime to expedite enforcement.
- Create a trafficking in trade secrets crime for any person who traffics or attempts to traffic in trade secrets they know or should have known was stolen.
- Include greater penalties for theft or trafficking in trade secrets if the crime intends to benefit a foreign government or entity.
- Allow a court to issue an injunction to prohibit improper use of a trade secret, require actions to protect the trade secret, or require payment of a reasonable royalty for use of a trade secret.
“Countries are actively trying to steal and replicate American intellectual property through corporate espionage,” said state Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Lithia.“Exchange of intellectual property demands there is proper compensation or a true exchange – it is not a one-way street. We will not allow foreign governments to steal our intellectual property, trade secrets and innovation, and I am proud to sponsor legislation to combat this problem.”
“For too long, our adversaries have been stealing corporate research and trade secrets. This legislation provides real security and action toward addressing the problem,” said state Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Orange Park. “I am honored to sponsor the Senate version and would like to thank my colleagues in both chambers for supporting this landmark legislation for Florida.”