Foreign influence bill’s next stop: Governor’s desk

The bill names China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria as “foreign countries of concern.”

Foreign researchers and funding at Florida’s research institutions could soon face extra scrutiny.

The Senate unanimously cleared a bill (HB 7017) Monday outlining rules and procedures to keep adverse foreign influence at bay in Florida’s colleges and universities. The Senate passed the House version of the bill 39-0 with no questions or debate.

The legislation stems from federal investigations involving federal grant recipients of research funds who had failed to disclose professional, academic and business relationships with certain foreign agencies in violation of various requirements. Florida’s institutions were part of the investigations, including Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute and the University of Florida, among others. The Moffitt investigation showed top officials there had questionable ties to China.

A House Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions was assigned to look into the matter. The committee determined Florida research grants often lacked requirements deemed reasonably necessary to ensure research integrity.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, as a result of that investigation, unveiled several pieces of legislation taking aim at U.S. foreign adversaries, and specifically called out China as a central threat to Florida.

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