Gov. DeSantis signs 2 bills aimed at cracking down on foreign influence, espionage in Florida

Bills signed at National Guard armory in Miami

Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference in Miami. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

MIAMI, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two bills Monday in Miami aimed at combating foreign influence and espionage in the state of Florida.

The bill-signing event was held at 10 a.m. at Florida National Guard Robert A. Ballard Armory at 700 NW 28th St.

The governor was accompanied by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and several state legislators.

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“The goal of these bills is to stop combat nefarious foreign influence in corporate espionage in Florida,” DeSantis said. “Our bills today focus on foreign influence writ large.”

“I think if you look right now, there is no single entity that exercises a more pervasive nefarious influence across a wide range of American industries and institutions than the Communist Party of China,” the governor added.

The first bill DeSantis signed, House Bill 7017, prevents agreements or contracts between public entities and the governments of seven “foreign countries of concern” — which include China, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Syria.

“We don’t want bad actors involved in our colleges and university, and we’ll hold you accountable if you run afoul of these new laws,” DeSantis said.

The second bill, House Bill 1523, specifically targets corporate espionage — prohibiting the theft and trafficking of trade secrets and increasing the penalties for the theft of intellectual property.

“Anyone who willfully, without authorization, steals or attempts to steal a trade secret, and use it for their own benefit will now face a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison,” DeSantis said. “If the same person tries to sell the stolen trade secret, they’ll face a second-degree felony with even more penalties and finally, (if) an individual entity violates this law on behalf of a foreign government the penalties are significantly enhanced adding even more time in prison.”

Monday’s signing comes after the governor already signed into law the state’s 2021-2022 budget last week, along with three bills benefiting veterans.

He also signed bills to reduce local impact fees charged against developers, creating a task force on abandoned Black cemeteries and making wildlife trafficking a racketeering crime and, one week ago, the governor signed a controversial bill preventing transgender female athletes from competing in on high-school girls’ and college women’s sports teams.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.