Democrats in the Florida House continued to use procedural tactics to slow down the legislative process Wednesday, part of a protest against the Legislature's non-action on healthcare reform.
Forcing all bills to be read in their entirety and reading full passages from the state's Constitution, the minority party held firm on its insistence that Florida act on healthcare reform this year.
When they weren't reading from the Constitution in debate, the Democrats turned to shifting debate on all bills back to the issue of healthcare reform.
"We have one of the most healthy pensions in the world, so I can't see why we're not (focusing on) more important issues," said Rep. Irv Slosberg (D-Boca Raton) speaking about a pension reform bill. "Like healthcare."
Bills about everything from cancer treatment to home health agencies were used by Democrats looking to revive the debate over expanding health insurance under federal healthcare reform.
House Republicans, who have decided to reject billions of healthcare dollars from the federal government, sought to keep the process moving by limiting debate on bills to three minutes. They also used a robotic auto-reader, named Mary, to speed-read through all the bills.
"Sometimes demanding even a right, or an entitlement under the rules… requires resistance," said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. "We're trying to address an unhealthy psychology. And I hope that in some way human being will humble themselves, honor the process, respect that which the will of the people stated when they elected us, and find a way to paint ourselves out of the corner."
The stalling tactics could threaten several pieces of legislation in the waning days of the 60-day legislative session, which ends Friday. Wednesday is a key day in the House, procedurally, because after "Day 58," the chamber can only take up bills coming over from the Senate.
House Speaker Will Weatherford said he thought the tactics were "disappointing" and "unbecoming." He vowed to get through the entire agenda despite the slowed process.
In Tallahassee Wednesday, Democratic National Chairman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, praised House Democrats.
"It's important and the right thing to do," she said. Democrats' delay tactics are preventing Republicans from "just ramming through what their tea party extremist agenda thinks is important."