Members of the Alabama Legislature's Contract Review Committee reviewed a $450,000 communications services contract between the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board and Direct Communications on Thursday for "development of anti-underage drinking materials and online/virtual presentations."

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) supplied questions to State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) about the contract because Orr wasn't in attendance. Orr, through Garrett, asked Dean Argo, government relations and communications manager for the ABC Board, about the need for the contract.

"Don't we have off-the-shelf videos in existence?" Orr asked.

Argo replied, "We could get a program from the federal CDC or the National Institutes of Health, but it would not be Alabama-specific."

"Senator Orr and I have had that conversation before, so I expected the question," Argo added at the meeting. "There is no really off-the-shelf. There are programs that are available from different entities around the country, but this was an Alabama-created program. We started in 2014. We go to schools. We do an hour-long presentation with a Mothers Against Drunk Driving volunteer and an ALEA SBI Agent or a state trooper. It's Alabama-specific.

"I believe that any entity that is tracking underage drinking in the state will tell you that our underage drinking rates are actually decreasing. ... The number of our young people that are drinking are actually drinking more, but the instances of young people actually drinking in the state is actually declining, and we think that a lot of that has to do with our program," Argo said.

Alabama is one of 17 remaining alcoholic beverage control states in the U.S.

Orr has filed multiple bills to phase out ABC stores throughout his tenure.

"[A]ssuming I'm privileged enough to be reelected, I'm going to keep fighting the fight to see if we can't get the state out of competing with private businesses around the state in the sale of liquor," Orr told Midday Mobile's Sean Sullivan in October.

Orr also told Sullivan the "Christian Right" has also opposed privatizing liquor sales, thinking it may increase teen drinking.

"There's no study to corroborate that, but that's what they say," Orr said.

The contract was approved Thursday without objection.

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