A key element in my unending criticism of our insulated, leaden legislature is that its leaders and separate chambers operate in silos of self-interest — to the detriment of democracy and the common good.
Plus, leaders demonstrate little concern for the image of the institution, which consistently conveys this message to taxpayers: We do what we want, not what you want.
Both flaws were evident last week when the legislature left the Capitol for the summer, displaying disdain for public-supported government reforms.
Lawmakers fled after failing to agree on measures to give citizens direct, at-the-ballot-box say in reducing the legislature's size, fighting gerrymandering, and allowing merit selection of state judges.
Escape is part of their pattern.
And here's how they work it. When pressed for reforms, pretend to have interest. Then ping-pong bills back and forth between House and Senate until time runs out or bills get so laden with other stuff that they fall under their own weight.
That way, members can tell constituents that (at some point) they voted for reform but the other chamber wouldn't go along.
This is what happened to creating a citizens' redistricting commission to fight gerrymandering. It's what happened to reducing the size of the legislature (which was one step away from this November's ballot). And merit selection, around for decades? Simply makes too much sense.
Problem is nobody wants change so nobody pushes for House and Senate cooperation.
House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, in separate interviews, mostly made my points.
I asked Turzai whether avoiding reforms harms the legislature as an institution. He answered by talking about what killed the citizens' commission bill: "On redistricting, 607 amendments were filed from both sides of the aisle. So, clearly there was no consensus."
Oh, and it's the Senate's fault.
"Many of us are open to a commission," Turzai said (apparently with a straight face; this was a phone interview). "The Senate chose to include judicial lines."
That's true. The Senate, after eviscerating the notion of a real citizens' commission, tossed in a provision creating electoral judicial districts for judges who now run statewide.
I asked why a GOP House and Senate can't agree. Turzai said, "It's a system of checks and balances designed for serious discussions, not to precipitously make change."
Who knew? I thought the system of checks and balances referred to the separate branches of government.
When I asked Corman why House and Senate leaders of the same party (the GOP holds majorities in both chambers) can't get together, he said, "I guess because we represent different bodies."
Oh, and it's the House's fault.
On redistricting reform, Corman said, "We want to do it. We think it's the right thing to do. Doesn't mean the House believes that."
I asked him whether he can see how repeated failure to enact reforms supported by so many can discourage people from even seeking to participate in the process.
Corman said, "I don't know that it discourages people."
A new national bipartisan poll shows most Americans, 55 percent, believe our democracy is "weak," 68 percent believe it's "getting weaker," and 80 percent are "very" or "somewhat" worried about its overall health.
The poll is a product of the George W. Bush Institute, the University of Pennsylvania's Biden Center (yes, that Biden) and Freedom House, a D.C-based independent watchdog of freedom and democracy around the world.
I'm betting in Pennsylvania those numbers are about to get worse.
Last month's Franklin and Marshall College poll showed that 72 percent of registered voters think Pennsylvania government needs reform, 69 percent support an independent commission to draw legislative district lines, and 71 percent support a constitutional convention on the structure and operations of government.
The response from the nation's largest, most-expensive full-time legislature? Bupkes.
Instead? Callous disregard for the will of the people, ongoing lip service to reform advocates, perpetual aversion to transformative change, and institutional unwillingness to act in any interest other than its own.