We have a suggestion for the architect of the Pennsylvania Capitol: Install a chimney.
Drawing on the drama each time a Pope dies, the great dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol, which through squinted eyes could resemble the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, could dispense smoke to indicate when a budget is hammered out by the governor and the legislature.
Of course, the exhaust of either white or black smoke could only occur when the same party controls the legislature and sleeps in the governor's mansion.
Like the process to select a new Pope, where cardinals gather behind closed doors to select one of their own to lead the flock, Republicans put the finishing touches on the budget that will guide Commonwealth spending for the next year. The GOP-controlled legislature passed it lickety-split and the Republican governor smiled broadly as he signed it just as the new fiscal year was about to begin.
The wisps of white smoke could have been accentuated by the two Republican leaders of the House and Senate appearing on the steps of the great marble edifice to proclaim to the assembled masses, "We have a budget!" At which point a great roar of approval would have erupted from the crowd.
So it is when a single party runs a government, whether it is a state government, a national government or a city council.
Fortunately, since Pennsylvanians tend to be politically fickle, the lack of any meaningful opposition in the salons of power is relatively rare.
Usually the minority party is at least strong enough to provide something more than impotent floor debate.
In fairness, the foregoing missive would be just as appropriate if the word "Republican" were replaced with "Democratic."
The process for putting the 2012-13 Pennsylvania budget in place was, if nothing else, efficient and orderly. The crafting of public policy out of the public's view tends to be that way.
Yet, as Independence Day looms, it's good to look back over the past 236 years and contemplate how democracy has shaped us as a nation. It has seldom been efficient and orderly. It is more often been messy and frustrating, but it has made us a nation the rest of the world looks to as a model of freedom.