States are increasingly pursuing legislation related to foreign policy.
2023 saw a boom in state action against China and foreign adversaries of the U.S.
Issues addressed by legislators ranged from social media bans to foreign land ownership moratoriums, with other topics such as bans on higher education contributions and drone purchases beginning to gain traction, as well.
This article is part of our latest series: Major Issue Trends in 2023: State Legislative Recap. In this series, our experts examine the high-level legislative trends they saw in the 2023 state sessions. In addition to discussing the most prevalent issues considered by state policymakers, they explore some of the more surprising emerging trends we noticed, plus what to expect in 2024 for many of these policy areas. The series will be released during November and December, with new articles each week. Explore the full series here, and be sure to sign up for our email list so you don’t miss out on any articles (check the “Blog Posts” box).
2023 saw a boom in state action against China and foreign adversaries of the United States. Issues addressed by legislators ranged from TikTok bans to foreign land ownership moratoriums, with other topics such as bans on higher education contributions and drone purchases beginning to gain traction as well. As sentiments against foreign adversaries, such as China, continue to be contentious, we expect that such legislation will continue to be debated in the 2024 state legislative sessions.
Bans on Foreign Social Media Companies
In 2023, state lawmakers passed eleven bills banning TikTok or other foreign-owned or headquartered social media companies. The most comprehensive of the enacted bans (MT SB 419) was passed by Montana lawmakers and prohibits an internet service provider from allowing the operation of TikTok within the state. This law, set to take effect on January 1, 2024, is currently blocked by a court order following a First Amendment lawsuit. If enforcement of the bill is able to proceed, other states may look to expand TikTok restrictions modeled off Montana. Legislation enacted in Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia does not go as far as the Montana legislation and instead only bans TikTok or other foreign-owned social media on state government-owned devices or networks. Lawmakers in an additional twenty-one states proposed similar legislation. Of these, twelve are carryover states in which legislation proposed in the 2023 session will be able to be taken up again in the 2024 session. We expect that many of these states will continue debating and perfecting the language of these bans resulting in passage in 2024.
Foreign Land Ownership Bans
2023 also saw ten states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia – enact restrictions on the ability of land purchases by foreign nationals. Two of these ten bills (VA SB 1438 and ID HB 173) ban majority ownership by foreign adversaries of agricultural or other natural resources properties. FL SB 264 and MT SB 203 ban foreign adversary ownership of land within close proximity to critical infrastructure such as military assets. Alabama was the only state in which a foreign ownership ban was enacted only against China. The remaining five bills ban all foreign land ownership by American adversaries such as China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran. Nineteen other states introduced some form of foreign land ownership ban, with nine of these states being carryover states.
Bans on Higher Education Contributions and Drone Purchases
Two areas where we saw only a handful of anti-foreign adversary legislation were higher education contribution bans and drone purchase bans. Each of these policy sectors only saw one enacted bill. FL SB 846 prohibits state universities and colleges from accepting grants or gifts from foreign adversaries. AR HB 1653 bans the purchase of drones from foreign adversaries, specifically Russia and China. As U.S. relations between China and Russia continue to be strained, it is likely that more legislatures will consider introducing bans similar to Florida and Arkansas. Many states, especially those led by Republicans, are seeing the possibilities and benefits of practicing foreign policy at the state level and will be eager to continue doing so in 2024.
Tracking State Legislation
MultiState’s team is actively identifying and tracking this important legislation so that businesses and organizations have the information they need to navigate and effectively engage. If your organization would like to furthertrack this and other issues, pleasecontact us.