Cities, towns and other governments have long entered into sister-city agreements meant to foster economic and cultural exchanges. But Indiana lawmakers this year slipped a new prohibition blocking locals from joining cooperative agreements with communities in six “foreign adversary” countries into a bill that originally dealt with property taxes.

Proponents maintain the ban is meant to be retroactive, but not everyone thinks it would invalidate the 20-plus existing agreements involving Hoosier municipalities. And it doesn’t affect Indiana’s own sister-state agreement with Chinese province Zhejiang.

The proposal was finalized and signed into law just over a month after the Washington Post detailed China’s renewed focus on diplomacy with local U.S. leaders — featuring a trip former Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard took to China. During that tour, Brainard ratified a sister-city agreement with Xiangyang.

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