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As robo-reader drones on, Democrats say 'We're not holding up any bills'

As a robotic-voice droned through hundreds of pages of legislative text, Democrats in the Florida House insisted Wednesday that their stalling tactics would not blow up the legislative process.

House Minority Leader Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, said the Democrats’ stalling was not aimed at preventing bills from being heard on the floor. Since Tuesday, Democrats have used procedural tactics—including forcing all bills to be read in full—to protest the Legislature’s inaction on healthcare reform.

“We’re not holding up any bills,” said Thurston. “We’re not denying anything that requires a two-thirds vote. We are requiring the reading of the bills because we want to bring attention to the 1.2 million people who don’t have insurance.”

As the procedural tactics slogged on, there was increasing fear that the clock would run out and several bills would be left pending when the Legislature ended its session on Friday.

Proposals to give tax support to the Miami Dolphins and other sports teams and election reform were at risk of being sidelined by the process.

Thurston said the House Democrats would not act to block those and other bills from a vote.

“The elections (reform) bill is extremely important to us,” he said. “We’re prepared to hear that bill, hear the stadium bill, to hear every bill that’s out there.”

At the same time, he requested House leadership to hear a health insurance bill that passed the Senate earlier this week.

“Bring up the bill that would allow 1.2 million low-income, working Floridians to get some health coverage,” he said.

Thurston said there have been “a lot” Republican lawmakers who have approached him telling them they were “interested” in the healthcare plan passed on a 38-1, bipartisan vote in the Senate.

That plan would draw down billions of federal dollars to expand healthcare coverage for more than 1 million low-income Floridian. The House pitched a different plan, which rejects the federal money and covers fewer people.

House Speaker Will Weatherford has said the Senate plan — and the federal money it relies on—were “unsustainable.”