Florida lawmakers will consider legislation to protect state universities and research institutions from interference by China, state House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said Tuesday. In a tweet, Sprowls said the legislation will come as part of efforts by the House Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions, which was set up by former Speaker Jose Oliva in response to reports of Chinese meddling at Moffitt Cancer Center and at the University of Florida.
“The Florida House launched the 1st State-initiated investigation into China’s coordinated effort to access our Universities & research,” Sprowls tweeted. “Next year, we will propose new legislation to make Florida the national leader in protecting our research institutions.”
The Tampa cancer center, which receives state funding, went through a shake-up after the center’s chief executive officer, a senior member of the center and four researchers resigned over alleged violations of conflict-of-interest rules related to work in China. Moffitt reported no evidence intellectual property had been stolen or that research of patient care had been compromised, but “out of an abundance of caution” it returned roughly $1.1 million to the state.
Sprowls linked his tweet with a National Review report titled, “America’s Elite Universities Hide Contributions from World’s Worst Human-Rights Abusers.”
The report said, “While governments of allies such as England, Germany, and Italy all donate directly to U.S. colleges, roughly one-third of declared foreign funds come from nations that abuse human rights on a massive scale.” The report also noted that “various universities reported receiving $6.6 billion in recent years from countries including Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.”
The 2021 legislative session will begin March 2.