With just over three weeks left until his runoff election, embattled House Speaker Dade Phelan has thrown together a legislative committee to study a potential ban on Chinese ownership of Texas land despite having killed proposals to do so last year. 

“Today I created the House Select Committee on Securing Texas From Hostile Foreign Organizations to study the threat posed by these groups and their affiliates on the Texas economy, statewide security and fundamental American values,” stated Phelan.

During the regular legislative session last year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 147, which would have banned the ownership of Texas’ agricultural land, mineral interests, and timber by citizens, companies, or governmental entities of countries designated by the federal government as threats to U.S. national security. That would apply to China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Chinese firms and investors have bought 383,935 acres of U.S. land.

In 2021, for example, 130,000 acres in South Texas near Laughlin Air Force Base were purchased by a former member of the Chinese communist army.

The Senate’s proposal was killed in the House after it was never given a hearing by State Rep. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi), who chairs the House State Affairs Committee. House Bill 1075, which would have limited the ban to just farmland, also never received a vote in committee.

Hunter is among the members appointed to Phelan’s new special committee.

Despite the Phelan-led House’s inaction on the issue, support for a ban has only grown in recent months. Over 95 percent of Republican voters said they would support a ban on hostile foreign ownership of Texas land during the primary election in March.

Phelan’s sudden interest in the issue comes as he faces a runoff election against former Orange County GOP Chairman David Covey later this month. He’s not the only incumbent who appears to have changed his tune on the issue.

In a recent campaign video, State Rep. Justin Holland (R–Heath)—who is facing former Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson in the upcoming runoffs—said he “plans to support” measures to prevent China and others from buying Texas land. Last year, however, he refused to support those proposals in the legislature.

The new committee will be chaired by State Rep. Cole Hefner (R–Mt Pleasant), who also did not support the ban last session.

Other members of the committee include State Reps. Angie Chen Button (R–Dallas), Cody Harris (R–Palestine), Ray Lopez (D–San Antonio), Armando Martinez (D–Weslaco), and Terry Wilson (R–Georgetown). 

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens