The Nose: Three hard words state pols must learn to speak: ‘Waiter, check please!’

Have you heard the rumbling noise south of Tacoma lately? It might be mistaken for howitzer training at JBLM, or another late-summer thunderstorm boiling on the horizon.

To the finely tuned ear of The Nose, however, it is clearly the rumbling tummies of state politicians. That hungry herd of donkeys and elephants is eager to strap on the feed bags for another round of free eating and influence peddling when the Legislature convenes in January.

Provided they survive the punch and cookies of election season first.

Lobbyists will be happy to pick up the check. In the first four months of 2013, the state’s 50 most active lobbyists spent $65,000 wining and dining lawmakers, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.

But the pols shouldn’t tuck in their white-linen napkins just yet. Their reservations at Mercato Ristorante and Anthony’s HomePort will have to wait.

The Legislative Ethics Board is putting the kibosh on their unfettered freedom to nosh. It met this week to clarify a state law that allows public officials to accept free meals on “infrequent occasions.”

“Infrequent” is a vague term that varies in the eye of the beholder (and the stomach of the beholden). So the ethics arbiters decided to put a precise number on it.

Twelve meals per year.

Not three, as proposed by a handful of hard-liners.

Not 15, as suggested by Sen. Jim Honeyford.

A majority of the board agreed that a 12-meal limit makes sense — and is hardly a ticket to starvation.

If you want to meet with a lobbyist, “you can buy your own burrito,” said Rep. Drew Hansen, according a report by AP writer Rachel La Corte.

Every legislator receives a $120 daily stipend during the session, so rest assured they can afford to buy a burrito. Or twenty.

Hold the beans, please: Frankly, we believe the panel should adopt a strict no-burrito clause.

Don’t we have enough hot air in Olympia already?

Share and share alike: Personally, we have no quarrel with our representative getting unlimited free lunches from lobbyists — as long as he asks for a doggy bag and brings the leftovers home to his constituents.

Loopholes and more loopholes: The ethics panel doesn’t adopt its final rules until October, and politics is all about the art of compromise. So don’t be surprised if the meal limits are filled with loopholes large enough for a bread truck to drive through, such as —

Sec. 5: RCW 42.52.150 is amended to read as follows:

A meal is defined as a traditional sit-down experience. Therefore, a legislator’s consumption of calories does not constitute a meal if he or she:

(a) Stands while eating, like a dog or cat.

(b) Kneels while eating, like at a Japanese restaurant.

(c) Reclines while eating, like Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper.

New section of RCW 42.52.150: The following do not count as meals:

(a) Late-morning power smoothies.

(b) Late-afternoon tea and crumpets.

(c) Happy hour plates of hot wings.

(d) Any items purchased from a vending machine or ice cream truck.

(e) Any item picked up at a drive-through window.

(f) Food that is chewed but not swallowed.

(g) Food that is chewed and swallowed but not allowed to remain in the stomach for more than 30 minutes.

(h) Dishes that are cooked in a fondue pot, crockpot or any kind of pot.

Bucket list: The roster of local folks who have accepted the ice bucket challenge keeps growing.

On Wednesday, staffers from two orthodontic clinics dumped buckets of ice water on their heads along Ruston Way. On Thursday, Mayor Marilyn Strickland did it at City Hall.

Even the animals at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are doing it — with a global warming twist.

We hear the polar bears have issued a hot-water bucket challenge to the penguins.

Sister act: The Schnoz had grown tired of songs such as “Scent of a Woman” by Cheap Trick, “Perfume” by Britney Spears and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Figured it was time to step outside our comfort zone.

That’s when we found a new CD by the Jensen Sisters.

The sisters — Marilyn, Barbara and Arlene – have been Pierce County residents going on seven decades and have performed at venues ranging from local churches to live TV.

Their latest CD contains such favorites as “America the Beautiful,” “Love Me Tender” and “Put Your Arms Around Me.” It’s available for $15.99 at www.jensensisters.com.

Think you’ve never heard of the Jensen Sisters? Turns out you might have voted for one of them.

Barbara Jensen, otherwise known as Barbara Gelman, served in county elected office more than 20 years as a councilwoman and assessor-treasurer.

Her CD will have to do until Dale Washam releases his greatest hits collection.