I'm a little pressed for time this morning, so I'll pass you on to Byron for the news accounts of the Demoratic Senators' return. Instead, I'll discuss a couple of other points, as sort of a preview for next week.
There are two items of interest on the Quorum Report that are sadly behind their paid firewall. One says that the Senate now has two maps which can get 16 GOP votes to pass, the other discusses how sanctions may be applied to the returning Democrats. On the first, it says that the Duncan/Craddick West Texas dispute has not been worked out. From that, I infer that the two Senate maps referred to are ones that would keep Lubbock, Abilene, and Midland together as Sen. Robert Duncan wants. If so, the House will presumably still pass its own map, which gives Midland a separate district, and the fight will eventually be moved into a joint House/Senate committee. We'll find out soon enough.
On item two, my best guess is that the GOP will try to impose some sanctions, and the Democrats will tell them to go pound sand. Tactically, I'd guess the Democrats are hoping that the Republicans insist on fining them and restricting their access to supplies, conference rooms, parking lots, etc. It fits in well with their renegade-victim-of-oppression story line, and will serve as a continuing rallying point for them both in Texas and nationally. As such, the smartest thing the GOP can do is to be magnanimous and drop all of the punishments in the name of restoring harmony. The fate of redistricting is entirely in the GOP's control now, so it hardly costs them anything to let bygones be bygones, and it would take a lot of wind out of the Democrats' sails if they did so. I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear me say that I seriously doubt that Rick Perry is smart enough to advocate this. But hey, I could be wrong. Again, we'll know soon enough.
The Austin Chronicle explores this a bit:
Like nearly everything associated with the Lege this year, the latest reversal has its comic aspects. For example, just what will the Republican senators do about the fines and other sanctions they imposed on the Democrats for playing hooky during the second-called session? In theory, [Sen. John] Whitmire delivers a quorum -- but will they try to make him pay $57,000 for the privilege of doing their dirty work? And should they decide not to fine Whitmire, how will they justify maintaining the fines against the others? On Friday, Whitmire dismissed the question out of hand, saying, "I've always considered [the fines] just play money, and I don't expect anybody will ever have to pay them." Having been banned from the pressroom, Whitmire spoke on the Senate floor, prompting reporters to tease Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Carleton Turner about the curious inconsistencies of the Senate "sanctions." Turner sighed, "I don't make the rules, I just do as I'm told."