The Texas state senate passed legislation this week banning the purchase of farmland by citizens and entities linked to hostile foreign nations, a move which the author of the bill says will provide “sweeping state and national security protections.”
“This bill protects Texas farmland, oil and gas, rare earth materials and timber from being owned by foreign entities classified as hostile by the Director of U.S. National Intelligence for three consecutive reports. These nations currently include China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran,” wrote Sen . Lois Kolkhorst (R) following the passage of her legislation by a vote of 19-12 in the state Senate on April 26.
According to a 2022 threat assessment report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), China, Russia, Iran and North Korea pose the biggest threats to US national security. The report says that the CCP presents “the broadest, most active, and persistent cyber espionage threat to the U.S. Government and private sector networks.”
The Texas bill, SB 147, was introduced last November by Kolkhorst, and has the support of Gov. Greg Abbott (R). That said, the language of the original bill was toned down following criticism from some Democrats and locals over the bill banning property purchases of any individual who is “a citizen of China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia.”
In the final draft, the ban does not apply to lawful permanent residents, US citizens or dual citizens.
The property which the bill applies to includes agricultural land, improvements, mines and quarries, mineral deposits, and standing timber.
It also grants the Texas attorney general the authority to investigate potential violations if “reasonable suspicion” exists that an individual or entity making a property purchase is associated with one of the designated countries.
“Texas is rich in its natural resources and is home to invaluable strategic military bases and installations. With SB 147, we can protect our Texas food supply and energy resources as well,” wrote Kolkhorst – who built this legislation to dovetail with SB 2116 – the state’s “Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act,” which makes it illegal for Texas governments and businesses to make critical infrastructure deals with entities from the banned list.
Texas Democrats are upset.
“Even with the amendments offered, this legislation still takes away the rights of an entire class of people without due process and solely on the basis of their national origin,” wrote Rep. Gene Wu, an outspoken critic of Kolkhorst’s legislation, adding that he’s “frustrated by the Senate’s passage of SB 147 in its current form.”
“National security is a serious issue, but if we are concerned about the actions of foreign governments, then legislation should only affect foreign governments and their agents,” Wu continued. “Our community will continue to work, in the Texas House, to eliminate the unnecessarily discriminatory aspects of this bill.”
Not all Texas Democrats…
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a co-author of SB 147, is the lone Democrat who voted in favor of the bill on Wednesday.
“We’re not trying to target people. We’re trying to target nations that pose a security risk to this great nation of ours,” he said. “It’s incorrect to say that this bill is discriminatory.”
“We should not overlook the point that many of these nations are a threat to our security,” Hinojosa continued, adding that these countries “have made it very clear that they want to destroy our country, destroy our democracy, destroy our way of life.”