By Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Indiana Capital Chronicle
INDIANAPOLIS — A bill aimed at protecting Indiana’s critical infrastructure from four countries — China, Iran, North Korea and Russia — easily advanced through a House committee Monday.
Lawmakers also overhauled a provision blocking those foreigners from buying land near military facilities.
“We certainly do not want to give control of any of our critical infrastructure over to companies owned or controlled by citizens of bad actor states that seek to do harm to the United States,” Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Logansport, told the public safety committee Monday. He’s the House sponsor for the Senate-born legislation.
Critical infrastructure refers to sectors crucial to a functioning society, such as roads, energy, water and communications systems.
“Foreign governments with nefarious purposes like to use our own democracy and economic freedom against us but we should not allow this to the extent possible, so this is a step in the right direction,” he continued.
Indiana’s General Assembly has already approved a law banning the state and local governments from buying telecommunications equipment or services that are on a Federal Communication Commission list of security threats.
Manning called Senate Bill 477 a “follow-up” to that 2020 law.
It would use a broader “covered list” from the FCC of communications equipment or services considered an “unacceptable risk” to national security.
It would ban the state and local governments from contracting with “prohibited” entities — citizens and companies from those four countries, and any others the governor deems a threat — on “critical infrastructure” projects. Under existing law, that includes chemical, aluminum, paper, pharmaceutical and other manufacturing, plus utilities, hazardous waste storage and more.
And the bill blocks those citizens and companies from buying or leasing land next to military facilities, effective at the end of June. Lawmakers on Monday tweaked the bill on the spot to include Indiana National Guard assets.
“What that [amendment] does is it protects the chain of title [and] it puts a process on it that also satisfies due process concerns that could arise if we just say, ‘It’s prohibited,’ and we roll back,” said Elizabeth Berg, a property attorney speaking on behalf of the Indiana State Bar Association. She also said the change would shift legal burden from the seller to the buyer.
“If a prohibited person did do it it’s that person that gets in trouble,” Berg said. “And then the state has the ability to put that property back into someone else’s hands, to own it, to do something with that property to keep it on the tax rolls.”
The committee advanced the bill unanimously, 12-0. It now goes to the full Senate for potential amendments and, later, a final vote.
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