Poncho Nevarez committee chairmanship safe for now

Poncho Nevarez Committee

Update 6 p.m.: State Rep. Phil King gave a lengthy interview (paywalled) to the Quorum Report arguing that Dennis Bonnen is willfully misreading the law.

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen can’t or won’t remove disgraced Rep. Poncho Nevárez from his committee chair. 

Nevárez (D- Eagle Pass) was arrested on Nov. 15 for possession of a controlled substance. The arrest came about six weeks after Nevárez dropped an envelope with his official House seal and about two grams of cocaine outside of Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport. 

The incident was investigated by Texas’ Department of Public Safety. Nevárez is chair of the House’s Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety — which happens to oversee the DPS.

Nevárez is also Vice-Chair of Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety. Poncho Nevárez committee membership became an issue after three other committee chairs sent Bonnen (R-Angleton) a letter.

State Reps. Phil King (R-Weatherford), James White (R-Hillister) and Jeff Leach (R-Plano) co-signed a letter asking Bonnen to remove Nevárez. 

However, Bonnen stated that House rules only allow new speakers elected during the regular session to replace committee members.

The rule was originally intended to prevent speakers elected midway through session from kicking people off committees.  

Some activists believe that Bonnen is offering an overly narrow interpretation of the rules, and others see Nevárez’s actions and Bonnen’s lack of a reaction as yet another reason for Abbott to call a special session.

Nevárez’s legal issues came to light after he announced his office would deactivate its Facebook page, but provided no reason for the move.

Two days later, on Nov. 8, Nevárez announced he would not seek reelection to the lower chamber in 2020, saying in a statement he “must heal up for the rest of what may come in my life.”

Nevárez faces a charge of third-degree felony possession of a controlled substance, which carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison. ]

On Nov. 15, Nevárez surrendered himself to authorities in Maverick County. He was booked into the county jail and was released after posting a $10,000 bond.