MONTGOMERY — A bill to prevent Chinese acquisition of Alabama land passed the State House of Representatives on Tuesday, despite pushback against potential economic consequences.   

House Bill 379 (HB379), sponsored by House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle), would prevent Chinese citizens, government or entities from acquiring land in Alabama.

According to Stadthagen, Chinese entities would be allowed to lease land in the state, not own it outright.

State Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) tried to point to the legacy of former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, saying they were both the biggest friend of China and responsible for their economic success.

"China wouldn't be a threat if Ronald Reagan didn't love them so much," Moore said. "And I understand Trump loved them even more, that he wrote them love letters."

State Rep. Rolanda Hollis (D-Jefferson) asked if the bill would run afoul of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), to which Stadthagen said he didn't know.

The FHA makes it illegal to harass persons because of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, familial status or national origin.

According to Stadthagen, foreign countries own 1.4 million acres in the state of Alabama, although he did not clarify how many of them are owned by China.

"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 is what prompted [the bill]. It's for protection."

Several Democratic lawmakers opposed the bill, with some saying it would negatively affect the economy by preventing further business expansion from Chinese-owned companies that have already set up shop in the state.

An amendment was later adopted, clarifying that existing businesses could purchase property so long as the acquisition borders the initial property.

The amendment also clarified that a title insurer, agent or settlement provider could not be held liable under the law. It also explained that the law would not apply to Taiwanese entities.

The amended version of the bill passed the House with a vote of 73-23 with nine abstentions. It will now go to the Senate for deliberation.

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