The papers say that the future of taxation in California is being debated and decided these days, but those decisions, and those debates take place behind closed doors. The state’s powerful interest groups and some of its richest citizens – those who can file a ballot initiative and pursue a campaign – have put forth their proposals in public. But they are talking in private about compromises, about which measures might go forward, and which might be dropped.

The initiative process supposedly belongs to the people, but moments like this put the lie to that. The people aren’t part of the debate. They learn from it in very occasional reports and leaks.

Many of these same groups now negotiating behind closed doors were part of supposed initiative reform efforts in recent years. Those reforms were supposed to create room for debate and negotiation, to involve the people. If they really believed that, they could bring these talks and negotiations out into public.

Why not call a tax convention? Convene it some weekend in January. It would be a public meeting, in some place central (Fresno, I’d suggest, but maybe Sacramento or near a Bay Area or Southern California airport). Open it up to the public, and debate the various tax measures. Hear testimony. And if you need a neutral moderator, why not invite the people from Healthy Democracy Oregon — which convenes citizens’ juries to consider ballot measures in that state — to come down and run the convention.

Californians need debate and clarity. We are likely to face a dozen or more measures on the ballot, all at once next November. That’s a lot to digest. And November is not so far away.

Such a convention probably won’t happen. Interests and rich people think they derive their power from being able to advance big proposals behind closed doors. But the people do have the power – to say no to any tax plans hatched in the dark.