Kansas governor vetoes bill aimed at blocking $95M Johnson County manufacturing plant

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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday vetoed a bill that would have banned companies from China and other foreign adversaries from owning real estate in the state, saying that the bill was too broad to be effective.

In her veto message, Kelly said the bill was not tailored narrowly enough to deal directly with Kansas’ security and could be open to legal challenge.

“While I agree that it is important for our state to implement stronger protections against foreign adversaries, this legislation contains multiple provisions that are likely unconstitutional and cause unintended consequences,” Kelly wrote in her veto message.

The legislation appeared to be an attempt to thwart Cnano Technology, a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese company, from building a $95 million facility in Johnson County. Republicans have expressed concern that Cnano is too closely tied to the Chinese Communist Party — a claim the company has denied.

But it went beyond Cnano. The legislation barred citizens and companies with ties to China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela from owning non-residential land within 100 miles of a military facility in Kansas.

It came as lawmakers are increasingly concerned about the foreign influence of China and it’s rising power in the Pacific. President Joe Biden recently signed a law that attempted to force a Beijing based company to sell the popular social media app TikTok, citing national security concerns. TikTok has brought a lawsuit challenging the law.

Kelly’s decision comes after the Legislature has adjourned for the year, which means lawmakers won’t be able to override her veto. Still, Kansas Republicans were quick to criticize Kelly.

“Foreign adversaries, such as China, have made their intentions toward the US and our democracy abundantly clear,” said Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins. “It’s shameful that our governor has chosen not to take those threats seriously, leaving Kansas’ critical infrastructure and military installments exposed.”