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House bill to ban Chinese property ownership

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would ban Chinese citizens and entities from purchasing property in the state. The legislation comes amid growing concerns about Chinese investments in the United States.

The bill was introduced by Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle) who said  Chinese acquisition of Alabama land could pose a threat to national security. 

“Just in the last year alone, China has purchased over $6 billion worth of property in the United States,” Stadthagen said. “With our military bases that we have in Alabama, that’s what prompted this.” 

After substantive discussion and debate on the bill, an amendment was crafted that stipulated Taiwanese nationals would not be impacted. Also added was existing Chinese companies, such as Mobile’s Continental Aerospace Technologies, would not be impacted.

When brought to a final vote, the House voted 73-23-6 in favor of the bill, largely across party lines. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Critics of the bill argued that it unfairly targets Chinese citizens and entities, might violate the Fair Housing Act, and bring about unintended economic consequences. 

“Because they’re a communist country, oftentimes we’ll have refugees, we’ll have asylum seekers, we’ll have permanent residents,” Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham) said. “We’ll have people emigrating from China to come here, who want to escape communism and be able to make sure that they can set up businesses and have prosperity and make the American dream come true for themselves.”

However, supporters argued that protection of critical infrastructure and national security interests outweigh negative consequences. 

“No matter how we got here, we’re here,” said Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield). “That’s the duty of this body, when we see a threat to this country, and in particular to this state, that we step up and slam our foot to the floor and say no more, because we know this is the greatest international threat this country knows.” 

The bill also received support from Attorney General Steve Marshall.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, the bill would prohibit any Chinese company or individual from purchasing property in Alabama.

Alabama wouldn’t be the first state to take action against Chinese investment. In 2021, a Chinese billionaire in Texas had plans to construct a wind farm on a portion of 140,000 acres near Laughlin Air Force Base. Gov. Greg Abbott intervened and passed a law that halted its construction.

According to the National Agricultural Law Center, approximately 18 states have laws that prohibit or restrict foreign ownership of private agricultural land. 

On the federal level, Alabama’s Senate delegation in Washington is working on similar efforts nationwide. The Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act – introduced by Sen. Tommy Tuberville and cosponsored by Sen. Katie Britt – aims to combat the Chinese Communist Party’s ownership of farmland in the United States. 

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270 for coverage of the 2023 legislative session. 

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