SALT LAKE CITY — A bill filed in the Utah State Legislature would require elected officeholders to declare if they take trips paid for by foreign governments.
House Bill 366, sponsored by Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, would require a disclosure if the trip is paid for by someone else like a foreign government or nonprofit.
"This bill is important in creating more transparency," she said Monday in an interview with FOX 13 News.
Rep. Pierucci said her bill was in the works long before two Utah political leaders took trips to the World Cup paid for by the Qatari government. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes defended the trip saying he was consulting the country on human trafficking issues. Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, also took a trip to the World Cup and said it was related to trade mission outreach. Neither trip is illegal, but the gifts were criticized.
Rep. Pierucci said she is not proposing to ban such trips, but would like to see them disclosed. Asked about the bill, the Senate President signaled he might be willing to support it.
"If it comes, I think it’s something we’ll discuss and maybe it will have some merit. So we’ll see how it moves," he said Monday.
Rep. Pierucci has another bill in the legislature that would restrict some foreign governments from owning land like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
"We would prohibit countries who are the restricted foreign entities list by the federal government from making any land purchases in Utah. If they currently own land, they have to get rid of it within five years or the state takes it," she said.
House Bill 186 is in response to purchases across the country by Chinese companies that have raised some concerns about national security. Rep. Pierucci pointed to a Chinese company that has tried to purchase the old Larry H. Miller Motor Sports Park in Tooele County.
The recent dust up involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon has also given her motive to pass the legislation.
"I think the spy balloon controversy has made this a no-brainer of a bill, but I still am hoping to get bipartisan support for it," she said. "I really think it’s important. We have national defense installations all across our state but also a growing aerospace and defense sector."