Texas State Senate approves limitations on land sales to China, Russia

The Texas State Senate this week approved a bill that would limit the sale of its farmland to individuals and organizations associated with the governments of China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

Senate Bill 147 — the passage of which was first reported by the Texas Tribune — was passed in the Senate on a vote of 19-12, and restricts the “purchase or [acquisition of] title to real property in this state” for any governmental entity of the aforementioned nations. The primary purpose of the bill is to restrict the countries from acquiring “agricultural land, timberland and oil and gas rights” according to the Tribune.

The bill also restricts any company that is headquartered within the named nations from the acquisition of property within the state, as well as any entity “directly or indirectly held or controlled” by the nations’ governments. Companies that are “owned by or the majority of stock or other ownership interest of which is held or controlled by individuals who are citizens” of the nations are also prohibited by the bill.

The bill would also empower Texas’ state attorney general to investigate violations of the law if they have “a reasonable suspicion that the purchase of or acquisition of title to real property in this state by an individual or entity in violation of this [bill] creates a risk to the health, safety, and welfare of the public,” the bill reads.

The version approved by state lawmakers this week is a far less intense version of a previous measure proposed in January, which sought to completely ban land sales to both dual citizens and businesses associated with China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

That proposal received support and an intent to sign it into law from Gov. Greg Abbott (R), but was softened after sustained opposition emerged from Chinese Americans who contended that the original measure would’ve made it impossible for dual citizens to buy land or start businesses within the state.

Still, while certain Texas Senate Democrats lauded the decision to narrow the focus of the bill, support from the other side of the aisle was thin on the ground according to comments shared with the Tribune by Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston. Additionally, Asian Americans expressed concern that its passage would only serve to bolster anti-Asian sentiment that has risen across the country in recent years.

The front webpage of nonprofit civic organization United Chinese Americans currently features a statement condemning the passage of the bill in the Senate.

“We are extremely disappointed to see the vote of SB147 by the Texas Senate,” the organization tweeted earlier this week. “Less discrimination is still discrimination. The Asian American community will unite and stand strong together for equal protection and fair treatment.”

The measure has been delivered to the Texas House of Representatives. If it passes there, the bill will be reconciled between the Senate and House versions before proceeding to the desk of Gov. Abbott to be signed into law.

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