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National Conference of State Legislatures

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The National Conference of State Legislatures, or NCSL, is a body established in 1975 to serve the members of the various state legislatures in the United States.

As an organization representing state legislators, the NCSL maintains an uneasy relationship with the ballot initiative process. When citizens collect signatures to place initiatives on the ballot, it is generally because those citizens believe that their state legislature (and by extension, the individual members of that state legislature) have failed to legislate in accord with the preferences of the voters of the state.

The NCSL has been a leading advocate of measures that make it more difficult for citizens to qualify initiatives for ballot placement.

NCSL maintains two offices: one in Denver, Colorado, and the other in Washington, D.C.

NCSL's position on ballot initiatives

In 2002, the NCSL convened a national task force chaired by DiAnna Schimek, a noted foe of the initiative process from Nebraska. The purpose of the task force was "to review the growing use of initiatives and referendums around the country and to examine their effect on representative democracy at the state level."[1]

The task force included included representatives from seven of the 24 initiative states, and lobbyists from tobacco company Philip Morris and the Monsanto Company.

Ultimately, the group made 34 recommendations; one of them was:

  • "The Initiative and Referendum Task Force found that opportunities for abuse of the process outweigh its advantages and does not recommend that states adopt the initiative process if they currently do not have one."[2]

The recommendations of the task force were never formally adopted by NCSL policymakers.[3]


NCSL reported total income in 2005 of $2,857,000.[4] The NCSL Foundation reported total income of $2,4 million in 2004.[5] The NCSL did not report its donors on its federal income tax return in either 2004 or 2005. How the NCSL is funded is not known; it does not provide information about its sources of funding on its website.[6]

External links


  1. NCSL Task Force, Executive Summary
  2. Initiative and Referendum in the 21st Century, Final Report
  3. Stateline, "Colorado voters to test ballot reform", October 28, 2008
  4. NCSL's 2005 tax return
  5. NCSL's 2004 tax return
  6. "About NCSL"