The saga surrounding whether Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) should be stripped of his leadership positions or resign from office entirely after he was arrested for cocaine possession continued this week.
Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury), chairman of the conservative Texas House Freedom Caucus, wrote a letter to the embattled chairman calling for his removal from his committee chairmanship and vice-chairmanship in the Texas House.
“I believe as members of the Texas House of Representatives, we have been given authority and trust by the people to do the peoples’ work. Chairman Poncho Nevárez, you [have] broken the authority and trust that has been given to you…There are consequences for actions and it is time for the people of Texas to trust the integrity of these two important committees.”
Nevárez serves as chairman of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, which oversees all matters pertaining to law enforcement, and vice-chair of the Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety, which was formed in the aftermath of the El Paso and Midland-Odessa shootings earlier this year.
Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), in response to a letter from three other chairmen asking the leader of their chamber to strip their colleague of his chairmanships, said he was unable to do so according to the House Rules.
Questions were raised about the applicability of the portion of the rules Bonnen cited.
Additionally, questions have been raised by capitol insiders regarding the state pension Nevárez is likely eligible to receive at the end of his term. Prior to the controversy becoming public, Nevárez announced he would not run for reelection, but he has not resigned.
State representatives secure their state pension after serving 8 years in office, while other government employees are eligible after they surpass 10 years of public service.
According to House business personnel, a member of the legislature must serve for a minimum of 8 years in order to receive a retirement pension by at least the age 60, or 12 years minimum in order to receive a pension by the age of 50.
The clock starts ticking once a member is sworn into elected office, and Nevárez was elected in 2012 and assumed his official duties after he was sworn in at the beginning of 2013. He’s set to meet his 8-year requirement if he completes his current term in office.
In 2017, then State Senator Van Taylor passed a bill which ensured that if elected officials committed certain felonies, they would be ineligible to receive their pension.
The list includes bribery, embezzlement, extortion, or theft of public money, perjury, engagement in organized criminal activity, tampering with a governmental record, misuse of official information, and abuse of official capacity.
However, the code makes no mention of the possession of illegal substances.
According to the Texas Constitution, a member of the legislature could be expelled from the legislative body they belong to if two-thirds of their colleagues vote to remove them.
On September 6, Texas Department of Transportation employees found an envelope, marked by Nevárez’s official state letterhead, containing four packets of cocaine at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Nevárez was caught on video dropping the envelope, and later told the Texas Tribune that the “news is true.”
After a warrant was issued for his arrest, he turned himself in to authorities on November 14 and posted his $10,000 bail.
According to the Department of Public Safety, the investigation is ongoing.
McKenzie Taylor serves as Operations Manager and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.