Lobbyists prepare to push Omaha priorities as Nebraska Unicameral sets 2023 agenda

Omaha is preparing to send a lobbyist to Lincoln
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 3:44 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The City of Omaha is preparing to send a team to the state capitol to present its state legislative package to lawmakers.

Every year Omaha has a list of laws and changes in the law for the city lobbyist to present to the legislature.

Jack Cheloha has been Omaha’s lobbyist for 28 years.

He tells us every year Omaha will ask for anywhere from three to nine bills to be introduced to lawmakers.

“Sometimes, if you will, it’s almost like a ‘shotgun’ approach,” Cheloha said. “If you ask for nine, it’s like you’re shooting the pellets; and you’re hoping something sticks, and you get them passed.”

Cheloha says there are many factors to deal with in order to get state senators to listen to proposals and get them on the floor for discussion.

“It all depends on how controversial the item is. And there’s other factors that come into it. For instance, if you have a freshman senator carrying the bill, or is the chair of the committee carrying it, can you build a coalition, can you get support from other groups?”

Cheloha says sometimes representing the largest city in the state can be challenging, especially when discussing issues with senators from other parts of Nebraska.

“We’re the biggest city, so sometimes there’s a healthy skepticism from the rest of Nebraska. ‘Well, why does Omaha want that?’ If it’s good for them, is it only good for them or will it be good for all of us?”

This year Omaha Police have three proposals, including a bill to increase penalties for people who steal catalytic converters.

The City is also looking into a bill to increase the penalties for drug dealers whose buyers die of overdoses.

Some Omaha officials support raising penalties for drug dealers

City Council President Pete Festersen is interested in a number of proposals, including creating a statewide affordable housing strategy.

“It’s a huge issue for our current residents but also for our future workforce,” Festersen said. “So we know we need to create a lot more pool of affordable housing for everyone to be successful.”

Officials say they do like to work with senators from every county in the state, and they have worked together on issues important to Omaha and Nebraska as a whole. Officials point to legislation that helped build Omaha’s downtown arena and convention center.

The legislature goes into session on Jan. 4.