Senate committee splits over homeless youth bill

February 25, 2019

A bill that would assist homeless youths in getting access to various documents that could help them find employment passed through a committee Thursday, but not without concerns.

Before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Republican Sen. Jim Merritt of Indianapolis proposed an amended Senate Bill 464, which aims to help homeless youths acquire their birth certificate, photo ID or driver’s license. A proposed amendment to the measure would permit specified adults to assist youths in attaining those documents, such as certain government entities, nonprofit organizations and McKinney-Vento liaisons.

SB 464 would also provide that the Department of Workforce Development adopt a rule to permit a qualified representative of a homeless youth to register the youth to take a high school equivalency exam without charge or consent of a parent, guardian, or custodian. The bill is scheduled for a vote before the full Senate on Monday.

Merritt’s amendment to the bill was prompted by previous concerns raised by Republican Sen. Sue Glick and other members of the committee that the bill was well intended, but unclear. Glick said that in an attempt to do good, the measure was a wide-open area that could cause a lot of harm due to its far-reaching nature.

“We can provide ID, we can provide this sort of thing, but we still have a homeless youth,” Glick said during a Feb. 13 committee hearing. “We’re talking about registering people to vote who don’t have a home. They’ve got bigger problems to worry about than getting to the polls.”

Sen. Lonnie Randolph agreed with Glick during the bill’s initial presentation, questioning how they could practically define what constituted a homeless individual. At that, committee chairman Sen. Randy Head of Logansport held the bill for Merritt to clarify the concerns.

Even with the added amendment, Glick voted against passing the measure last week, as did Republican Sens. James Buck and Aaron Freeman. The bill ultimately passed the committee 5-3 with no discussion.