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Policy Context and the Racialization of Welfare Reform
Unformatted Document Text:  state flag of Georgia. Then, last year, he got right with the angels by pushing welfare reform” (Williams 1993). South Georgians in particular appreciated and applauded Miller’s efforts to reform welfare (ibid). While the flag flap pulled Miller’s approval ratings to an all-time low, the passage of this initial welfare reform bill sent Miller’s ratings in the opposite direction. Indeed, during the 1993 legislative session when Miller first achieved some success in his welfare reform proposals, his disapproval ratings dropped to 29% and by the spring 1994 session they were down to 25%. In 1994, the initial measures went into effect, and Miller cajoled the legislature into passing even more punitive reforms. Over the course of 1994-1997 his approval ratings shot up to over 70% as he passed the most punitive welfare reforms in the country and completely abandoned his push to change the state flag. The year 1994 was also an election year. Republican Guy Millner challenged Zell Miller for the governorship. Miller’s campaign centered on welfare reform as well as issues like crime and cutting government spending (Smith 1993a). Miller avoided “the one issue that may have gotten him in the most trouble with rural white voters: his failed attempt to strip the Confederate battle emblem from the Georgia flag.” According to reporters, Miller “received the most enthusiastic applause [on the campaign] when he touted his controversial welfare reform plan” (ibid). Said Miller, “I fought the special interests, I fought the ACLU. I even had to fight the [Georgia House] speaker some… but we won on the closing night of the session. Now I’m having to fight some Washington bureaucrats to get a waiver for it” (ibid). Alabama’s Welfare Reforms Like Georgia, Alabama has one of the weakest social safety nets in the country. However, Alabama took a radically different approach to welfare reform. While Georgia **Working paper: please do not circulate or cite without permission. 13

Authors: Brown, Hana.
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state flag of Georgia. Then, last year, he got right with the angels by pushing welfare 
reform” (Williams 1993).  South Georgians in particular appreciated and applauded 
Miller’s efforts to reform welfare (ibid).  While the flag flap pulled Miller’s approval 
ratings to an all-time low, the passage of this initial welfare reform bill sent Miller’s 
ratings in the opposite direction.  Indeed, during the 1993 legislative session when Miller 
first achieved some success in his welfare reform proposals, his disapproval ratings 
dropped to 29% and by the spring 1994 session they were down to 25%.   In 1994, the 
initial measures went into effect, and Miller cajoled the legislature into passing even 
more punitive reforms.  Over the course of 1994-1997 his approval ratings shot up to 
over 70% as he passed the most punitive welfare reforms in the country and completely 
abandoned his push to change the state flag.  The year 1994 was also an election year. 
Republican Guy Millner challenged Zell Miller for the governorship.  Miller’s campaign 
centered on welfare reform as well as issues like crime and cutting government spending 
(Smith 1993a).  Miller avoided “the one issue that may have gotten him in the most 
trouble with rural white voters:  his failed attempt to strip the Confederate battle emblem 
from the Georgia flag.”  According to reporters, Miller “received the most enthusiastic 
applause [on the campaign] when he touted his controversial welfare reform plan” (ibid). 
Said Miller, “I fought the special interests, I fought the ACLU.  I even had to fight the 
[Georgia House] speaker some… but we won on the closing night of the session.  Now 
I’m having to fight some Washington bureaucrats to get a waiver for it” (ibid).  
Alabama’s Welfare Reforms
Like Georgia, Alabama has one of the weakest social safety nets in the country. 
However, Alabama took a radically different approach to welfare reform.  While Georgia 
**Working paper:  please do not circulate or cite without permission.
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