State roundup for June 14


Okuda will fill Wooley’s seat

HONOLULU (AP) — Gov. Neil Abercrombie is appointing George Okuda to fill the state House seat vacated by Hawaii’s new director of environmental quality control.

Abercrombie’s office said in a statement Friday Okuda’s appointment is effective immediately. He will serve the remainder of Jessica Wooley’s term representing District 48 in windward Oahu. Okuda isn’t running in the upcoming election.

Okuda has served as state Rep. Ken Ito’s legislative aide for 14 years. He has also been a legislative aide for state Sen. Bob Nakata and served on the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board.

Feds: Man hit flight attendant

HONOLULU (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a drunken passenger assaulted a flight attendant while flying from Japan to Honolulu.

Kenji Okamoto pleaded guilty Friday to interfering with a flight attendant’s duties by assaulting and intimidating him.

According to a criminal complaint, Okamoto was flying first-class from Osaka for his honeymoon last month when flight attendants noticed he was drunk before takeoff and continued drinking alcohol during the flight.

The court documents say Okamoto got upset when one of the flight attendants wouldn’t take his tray away. The flight attendant told him his hands were full. Okamoto allegedly punched a flight attendant who intervened in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

He faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

Kauai preschools are overwhelmed

LIHUE, Kauai (AP) — Repeal of a junior kindergarten program and a change in age requirements for entering kindergarten are contributing to a shortage of open slots at Kauai preschools.

The preschools are reporting long waiting lists.

The repeal of the junior kindergarten program was signed in 2012 and took effect at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Children who turn 5 after Aug. 1 will be unable to enroll in kindergarten until fall 2015. Children previously could enter public school if they were at least 5 before Dec. 31.

My Growing Place preschool co-owners Tricia Padilla and Deanna Kanehe in Kilauea said they receive calls to enroll daily.

“We have 80 kids on a wait list right now that don’t have a place to go,” Padilla said.

They testified Tuesday before the Kauai Planning Commission seeking a permit to open a second preschool.

Brooke Hemingway has four children including three under 5. The Wilcox Memorial Hospital nurse says she’s worried about them getting a quality early learning experience.

Cayetano gets apology over negative ad campaign

HONOLULU (AP) — A consortium of carpenters and contractors is agreeing to apologize to former Gov. Ben Cayetano for negative campaign advertisements during his unsuccessful bid for Honolulu mayor.

The apology is part of a settlement in the defamation lawsuit he filed against Pacific Resource Partnership alleging their 2012 advertisements focusing on his campaign contributions made him appear corrupt and tarnished his reputation.

The message will be published Sunday in an ad in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

It’s not clear how the lawsuit and settlement will affect political speech in Hawaii, as the legal standard for proving defamation in court is higher for public officials, the newspaper reported (http://ow.ly/xZcaC). Cayetano said it might make people more cautious.

“And I hope that organizations like PRP and others that we have seen and will see again will take a step back,” said Dan Boylan, a political analyst and former history professor at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. “But I doubt they will.”

Pacific Resource Partnership Executive Director John White confirmed the settlement but declined to comment on it.

The group’s political action committee spent more than $3.6 million against Cayetano, who ran as a candidate vowing to stop Honolulu’s rail transit project. The group spent an undisclosed amount on a multimedia campaign touting the benefits of the rail project.

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