COLUMBUS – A proposed constitutional amendment to protect Ohio’s critical infrastructure from foreign influence and control has been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives by State Representatives Jamie Callender and Don Manning.

“We are troubled by the growing trend of foreign entities acquiring or financing some of our country’s most critical infrastructure – the power plants, electric transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines, and water treatment plants that are vital to the welfare and safety of Ohioans,” said Callender (R-Concord).

Backers of the Ohio Critical Infrastructure Protection Amendment are aiming to place the issue before voters in November 2020.

Earlier this week, supporters turned in nearly 850,000 signatures backing the proposal. A statewide poll found 79 percent of Ohioans surveyed believed foreign companies and individuals should be banned from having majority ownership of critical infrastructure in Ohio.

A report to Congress by the U.S-China Economic and Security Review Commission has noted the Communist Party of China has used state-backed enterprises as the primary economic tool to advance and achieve its national security objectives.

The Ohio Critical Infrastructure Protection Amendment would prohibit foreign businesses and individuals from having a majority ownership interest in critical infrastructure located in Ohio, including power plants, intrastate electric transmission lines and pipelines, and water treatment plants.

Additional ownership restrictions in the plan include barring foreign companies and individuals from holding or acquiring any share of stock or other interests in a corporation or entity which would grant them access to any of the following:

  • Non-public technical information about critical infrastructure;

  • Membership or observer rights on the corporation’s or entity’s board of directors;

  • Any other involvement in substantive decision making regarding critical infrastructure or critical infrastructure technology.

Under the Ohio Critical Infrastructure Protection Amendment, owners of critical infrastructure would be required to disclose information regarding their ownership, governance and other details to the Ohio Secretary of State. If it is determined there is foreign ownership, the owner of the critical infrastructure would have one year to divest.

Manning (R-New Middletown) said current federal law provides some protection for critical infrastructure, but believes Ohio can and must do more.

“Energy security in Ohio means economic security for Ohioans,” said Manning said. “But we cannot have economic security until we better protect Ohio’s power grid and other critical infrastructure from foreign control.”

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