Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and top GOP lawmakers unveiled legislation on Monday to create new guidelines for universities, state agencies and even local governments working with foreign governments like China as part of a push to thwart the theft of intellectual property.

DeSantis’ move to back policies aimed at China is part of a broader pattern of endorsing legislation sparked by conservatives and former President Donald Trump that plays well with the base. The Republican governor, seen as a potential 2024 contender for president, has also called on legislators to crack down on tech companies, revamp the state’s election laws and approve a contentious bill to increase criminal penalties against violent protesters.

Speaking at an event at the Capitol on Monday, DeSantis said the proposals are necessary “to ensure tax dollars don’t end up in the hands of the likes of [Nicolás] Maduro, Kim Jong Un or the Chinese Communist Party.”

“We need to take action, stand firm against the Chinese Communist Party and foreign influence and interference in American research, education and public affairs,” DeSantis said.

What the bills do: House Speaker Chris Sprowls said Monday that “multiple” bills are coming this session to address foreign theft and interference, and corporate espionage.

One of the bills would require colleges to report any gift of $50,000 or more that is made directly or indirectly by a foreign government. Additionally, lawmakers want universities to monitor international travel and review foreign applicants for research positions more closely.

For anyone who fails to disclose or choose to hide any foreign disclosures, DeSantis warned they would have to pay 105 percent of any undisclosed gift back to the state.

Further, state agencies, cities and counties must report any gift or grant greater than $50,000 from any foreign source, under the legislation. Private entities seeking grants or pursuing state contracts would be required to disclose any financial ties worth more than $50,000 with seven counties including China, Cuba, Iran and Russia

The policies sought by DeSantis also would change Florida laws involving theft from cloud technology and the theft or trafficking of trade secrets.

Timing: The proposals detailed on Monday come on the heels of the Conservative Political Action Conference, where China was a top target. There were six panels at CPAC dealing with China, and conservatives say the tough-on-China message will be a winning campaign message.

They also come one day before the 2021 session officially begins, picking up where Sprowls and the House left off in 2020. Last session, a committee led by the Palm Harbor Republican crafted legislation that gave universities the power to terminate employees who violate conflict of interest policies, a direct response to a House probe into China’s attempts to poach the work of Florida researchers that came after weeks of digging into accusations of Chinese meddling at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and state universities.

“Today we work to bring sunshine and transparency to combat those shadowy tactics,” Sprowls said.

Gary Fineout contributed to this report.

Read more: politico.com

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