John Baer, the Daily News' man in Harrisburg, has a must read piece that shows us why reform is so hard. He says a once promising crop of reform minded lawmakers has been co-oped by the legislature.

Too many "reform" candidates elected in 2006 and 2008 turned into institutional toadies, going along to get along. And there's a prevailing school of thought among those long in power that turmoil is cyclical and passing, that significant reforms enacted now will later weaken leaders.

What's that? You say you want some examples? Well, Baer has a few.

Rep. Glen Grell, R-Cumberland County, this week introduced legislation creating a bi-partisan budgetary-reform commission to establish deadlines with consequences. He wants to prevent further "embarrassment to the institution" such as this year's 101-day delayed budget.

He did this after giving Democratic House Speaker Keith McCall two months to respond to a request for such a commission. And only after Grell informed the Speaker's office last week that he was going public did he get any response - a letter from McCall saying, essentially, there's only so much the House can do.

Republicans in the minority aren't the only ones who have trouble getting reform passed. Baer asked State Rep. Josh Shapiro (D – Montgomery County) about the chances of Pennsylvania finally reforming how we select judges. The answer? Not real good.

Shapiro is a leading reform advocate who sponsored a merit-selection bill last session, so I ask him what are the chances now.

"It's one of the reforms, if we get refocused on a reform agenda, that's in the mix," he says. I ask what makes him think that the legislature will get refocused on reform.

He says, "I didn't say that it would."

It's hard not to feel a bit discouraged after reading something like this. Sometimes, it seems like changing Harrisburg is a fool's errand. What do you think? Is reform possible?

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