Hime’s loss another blow to CA business community

Rex Hime. Photo with digital manipulation.

Two of the fiercest warriors in California’s interminable political battles over taxes and business regulation have died, but their impact remains deeply felt throughout the Capitol.

Allan Zaremberg, who led the California Chamber of Commerce for more than two decades until he retired in 2021, and Rex Hime, head of the California Business Properties Association for 37 years, passed away within hours of one another on Saturday February 4th. Zaremberg was 73; Hime, 74.

Both men were staunch conservatives who worked for years in Republican administrations before turning to lobbying. Zaremberg was chief legislative lobbyist for both Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson before leaving to work for the Chamber of Commerce. He became the Chamber’s top executive in 1998.

Hime also had his finger in a lot of pies: He started out on the Assembly Desk in 1970, and later went to Gov. Ronald Reagan’s administration as assistant to the director of Consumer Affairs. He was executive director of both the Agriculture Commission and the Economic Development Commission. He was a gubernatorial appointee – as well as a presidential appointee – to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and he also served on the UC Board of Regents.

The affable Hime was also explicitly less buttoned down than Zaremberg, single-handedly breaking down the Capitol’s rigid dress code with his penchant for loud Hawaiian shirts. He had a well-earned reputation for being a no nonsense, goal-oriented leader who nonetheless always looked for an opportunity to crack a joke.

An attorney with a UC Davis Law School degree, Hime was a lifelong conservative who spent much of his professional life fighting attempts to repeal or weaken Proposition 13 of 1978. That voter-approved initiative, which had a profound effect on California’s finances, cut property taxes by 57 percent, rolled them back to 1975 levels and limited new increases. It applied to both residential and commercial properties, and as a lobbyist for the business property group, Hime was deep in the battle.

He had a well-earned reputation for being a no nonsense, goal-oriented leader who nonetheless always looked for an opportunity to crack a joke.

He successfully fought back repeated efforts to create a “split roll” – leaving the residential tax break intact, but allowing commercial property to be taxed at a higher rate. The latest effort to create a split roll was defeated by voters in 2020. He also played an important role in passing legislation to block commercial rent control – the only state in nation to have such a law.

Hime was a prodigious organizer, too: When he went to CBPA in 1984, the group had 100 members. When he retired in 2021, it represented some 10,000 property companies, a staggering increase.

“From walking the halls of the Sacramento Capitol in Hawaiian Shirts, to traveling the state fighting Split Roll Tax measures and other threats to our industry, Rex has truly made a life of service feel more like fun than work,” said Joe Markling, a CBPA board member and head of operations at USAA Real Estate.

A reporter wearing an Aloha shirt once walked into Hime’s office at the Senator Building to pick up a sheaf of papers and was startled to see that he and Hime wore identical shirts.

“Nice shirt,” the reporter said.

“You, too!”

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