by Bailey Ashbaker, Senior Policy Analyst and Engagement Specialist, and Jessica Dietrich, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy
Winds of change bring us cooler temperatures and a swift conclusion to the 2023 special session Governor Stitt requested on tax cuts and budget transparency. As we look ahead to the end of the calendar year, advocates will be focusing on the smattering of remaining interim studies scheduled in the coming weeks, a few special elections, and eagerly awaiting December 8 and January 18 deadlines for bills to be requested and filed for 2024’s Legislative Session.
- On October 2, Hunger Free Oklahoma testified at an interim study focused on Free School Lunches requested by Representative Waldron.
- On October 24, Hunger Free Oklahoma, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, and Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma testified at the interim study on Rural Food Equity in Oklahoma, requested by Representative Boatman.
- Participants in this study included Chris Bernard, CEO of Hunger Free Oklahoma, who spoke on the landscape of hunger, food insecurity, and food access in Oklahoma. Representatives from Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma also testified, including B.K. Bruner, a member of the lived experience cohort Magnify Oklahoma, and Community Connections Manager for Southwest Oklahoma, Dave Wattenbarger. Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma’s Director of Rural Initiatives Scooter Vaughn also spoke on the challenges of food supply and distribution in the northeastern region of the state.
- This study was also combined with Food Security in Immigrant Communities, requested by Representative Deck and Urban Agriculture, requested by Representative Pittman.
The following districts are hosting special elections for vacant state legislative seats.
- Senate District 32 (vacated by Sen. John Michael Montgomery): A special general election set for December 12
- House District 39 (vacated by Rep. Ryan Martinez): A special primary election is set for December 12. A special general election is set for February 13.
New Speaker Elected:
Louisiana Representative Mike Johnson was selected as the next Speaker of the House in a 220-209 vote on October 25. Speaker Johnson said he would aim to pass the House’s Farm Bill version in December, though that timeline relies on government funding to be finalized first, which will prove challenging.
Congress has yet to finalize a budget for federal fiscal year 2024, which runs October 1, 2023 – September 30, 2024. If a budget agreement is not reached, Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past November 17 or the government will shut down.
Though there is a reasonable likelihood of a potential government shutdown, it is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming weeks following the turmoil of the House Speaker election. SNAP is a mandatory program (as opposed to a discretionary program) and so benefits will be issued no matter what – though benefit issuance could be delayed if the shutdown continues for more than one to two months. The USDA has confirmed that November and December SNAP benefits will be issued as normal even in the event of a government shutdown.
Until the federal budget is finalized, Congress will not act on the Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill technically expired 10/1/2023 but most Farm Bill programs will not be immediately impacted. The good news is that significant consequences of the lapse in Farm Bill authorization will not begin until January 2024. Additionally, these negative consequences of a lapsed Farm Bill do not directly impact SNAP. Right now, we believe that there is a chance that a Farm Bill extension can be negotiated and passed by Congress before the end of the year.
2023 SNAP State Options Report:
The Food and Nutrition Services division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has, after five years, finally released an updated State Options Report for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The report documents state by state choices on certain options that allow state agencies tailor SNAP according to their respective operational considerations and policy preferences. It also includes a summary and description of 19 SNAP policy options and waivers. These reports are not a comprehensive reflection of all policy and administrative options available to states. You can view the 2023 report and all previous versions online here.
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