The state’s Special Committee on Foreign Adversary Investments & Land Purchases wrapped a round of meetings on Wednesday. Kansas lawmakers are deciding whether to block U.S. adversaries from purchasing land. This comes as geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China rise.
“In no way are we targeting any particular country of origin… we’re just looking at the threats we face from adversary countries and coming up with ideas on how to best deal with them, including potential legislation,” said Senator Mike Thompson, a Republican from Shawnee who chairs the committee.
The first meeting on Tuesday’s meeting kicked off with an overview of legislation that was introduced this past session, but failed to pass. One bill, Senate Bill 100, would have blocked any non-U.S. citizen from buying Kansas real estate in certain areas. The provision raised alarm for some committee members, who questioned whether it could potentially block Kansas farmers from getting the best bid on their property.
“For so many farmers… that is essentially their retirement plan…,” said Senator Ethan Corson, a Democrat from Fairway. “By artificially saying we’re going to take out so many potential purchasers… it impacts their ability to go into the free market… to maximize the value…”
The bill would have also given the state Attorney General power to investigate real estate transactions, if they’re believed to involve foreign agents.
Senator Kellie Warren, a Republican from Leawood, worried the bill was overly broad.
“That seems to me to be almost invasive… looking at private transactions between it would seem to be any kind of sale of property…,” Warren said.
Properties in Johnson, Wyandotte, Sedgwick and Shawnee Counties would be exempted under the proposal, because state officials say the concern mainly lies with interferences with agriculture.
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach explained that it could make it more difficult to leverage U.S. resources, during bargaining.
“Maybe not necessarily leading to shortages at the grocery store… but certainly driving up price and making it harder for US consumers to have access,” Kobach explained, as he shared his recommendations with lawmakers.
China was at the forefront of discussions at the statehouse. The communist nation and the U.S. have close economic ties, but deep political differences between both countries has fueled a decades-long rivalry.
That escalated earlier this year, when a surveillance balloon was spotted across different parts of the U.S. and in Kansas, raising questions about China’s threat to national security.
Kobach explained that the sighting in Kansas was particularly concerning.
“We have three major military installations in Connell, Leavenworth, and Riley… so there are many reasons why Chinese national corporations… or other entities affiliated with the CCP might want to acquire property near or use property to gain intelligence on US military facilities,” he said.
Lawmakers will be considering testimony to draft potential legislation for next year.
To watch the full committee meeting, click here.