The Alabama House has banned the Chinese, and that could be a major problem.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen that would prohibit Chinese citizens and Chinese businesses from owning property in Alabama passed out of the House on Tuesday. But before it makes its way to the Senate, it’s drawing major concern from business organizations and Alabama’s Department of Commerce.
The central issue, obviously, is the bill’s effect on current and potential business relationships the state has, or hopes to have, with Chinese-based companies.
“Are you unaware of this state’s business relationships with Chinese companies and the major, positive impact those businesses have on our economy?” Rep. Sam Jones, D-Mobile, asked Stadthagen during floor debate on Tuesday. “We recruit businesses from all over the world.”
In response to repeated criticism from Democrats, Stadthagen said he was bringing the bill because Chinese citizens and businesses already own more than $6 billion worth of property in the U.S. and that “with Alabama’s military bases,” he felt like it was “a matter of protection.”
Democrats hammered away at the economic development issues with the bill, and those have been the subject of many behind-the-scenes conversations over Stadthagen’s bill. Specifically, many business organizations and economic development officials are concerned that the bill could cause problems in luring Chinese-based companies to Alabama for legitimate business.
One industry mentioned repeatedly by those involved in the discussions is battery manufacturing for electric cars. Alabama is positioned to be a major player in the electric car industry, and battery production is a major component. Many of the top producers are Chinese-based companies.
Democrats also raised issue with Stadthagen’s bill over the fact that it made no exceptions for Chinese citizens who came to America seeking asylum or fleeing communism permanently.
“Shouldn’t we be encouraging them?” Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, asked. “I feel like your bill is taking away from their ability to (escape communism).”
Stadthagen said the Chinese citizens could lease property until they obtained American citizenship.