Harrisburg's 101-day budget delay was further proof that the legislature is incapable of reforming its unproductive ways.

And it's all the more reason why the state needs to consider a constitutional convention.

After the pay-raise scandal in 2005, legislators promised to change their broken system of governing. Then-Speaker Dennis O'Brien (R., Phila.) even appointed a commission to recommend reforms in state government.

But the resulting changes were largely window-dressing to temporarily appease the public. The legislature agreed not to vote after 11 p.m., for example, but it dodged more meaningful reforms such as campaign-donor limits.

Even an influx of new representatives in 2006 couldn't change what came next: indictments against a dozen House Democratic officials for allegedly using public money for campaign purposes, followed by the nation's longest budget fight. Similar indictments for the GOP are expected soon.

The legislature costs taxpayers about $300 million per year, and Pennsylvanians know they're not getting their money's worth.

Good-government advocates such as Tim Potts of DemocracyRising/PA are pushing for a constitutional convention to reform state government. There hasn't been one since 1967-68.

Delegates would be chosen from around the state to meet for a period of several months. They would consider, for example, whether to reform the redistricting process, limit campaign donations, move to a part-time legislature, boost education funding, or allow for a graduated income tax. Recommendations would need to be approved by voters.

One argument against a convention is that the legislature already has the authority to amend the state constitution. But that lengthy procedure plays into the legislature's fondness for inertia.

The legislature has repeatedly refused to address two big issues contributing heavily to gridlock and unresponsive government - partisan redistricting and campaign finance limits.

A convention that looked at just those two problems would be a giant step forward.

Perhaps a convention could produce a mechanism for automatically reviewing the constitution periodically and suggesting other needed reforms.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association has considered some of these questions and decided that a constitutional convention is "premature." (No surprise; some lawyers fear their profession could become the target of reformers - a shortsighted excuse.)

But PBA President Clifford E. Haines raises valid concerns about how a convention would be organized, and who would set the agenda. It shouldn't be a free-for-all. That could become unwieldy and unproductive.

For now, the bar association is creating a commission by Dec. 1 to identify weaknesses in state government and how best to address them. If the legislature ignores such advice, popular support for a convention could build.

It's clear that the time for the legislature to reform its broken ways has all but expired. A constitutional convention might be the only way to achieve real reform in Harrisburg.