A bill that would make it easier for retired teachers to return as substitutes without jeopardizing their pensions neared final legislative approval Wednesday.

State Rep. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and sponsor of the bill, said he thinks the measure will pass before the Legislature’s mandatory deadline at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The proposal, House Bill 417, has passed the House and Senate but negotiators are trying to work out differences.

The issue stems from a law enacted last year.

It was aimed at ending the practice of educators retiring, sitting out one year and then returning to the classroom for a paycheck on top of their pension check.

But the same law says that, before a superintendent can hire a retiree as a substitute, he has to certify that the retiree would handle a subject where there was a shortage of teachers.

“None of the superintendents wanted to do that,” Cortez said.

He said superintendents could have been charged with malfeasance if they claimed a teacher shortage area where there was none.

The bill would allow retirees to return to the classroom from kindergarten through 12th grade.

However, they could not be paid more than 25 percent of their annual pension.

A teacher who collects $40,000 per year in retirement could make up to $10,000 between July 1 and June 30, the following year.

Anything beyond that would be subtracted from the pension payments.

“And the reason for that was we didn’t want to give an incentive for a teacher to retire so they could go back and double dip,” Cortez said.

The key issue blocking final approval is an amendment added in the Senate by Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie.

It would expand the list of retirees covered by the bill but also added a $67 million charge to the bill.

Cortez said he hopes that a House-Senate negotiating team will remove that provision and pave the way for final approval of the compromise by both chambers.

The bill is backed by the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said Donald Songy, associate executive director of the group.

“It would help our school systems a great deal,” Songy said.

A provision in the current law allows retirees to be hired for a critical need if the job is advertised and produces three or less certified applicants.

Songy said that was not a practical option for superintendents because the need for the teacher would often disappear before a fill-in was found.

The bill passed the House 98-0 on May 16 and the Senate 37-0 on June 20.