(CN) - Republican lawmakers in North Carolina remained unbowed Friday in their quest to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor despite public opposition and statehouse protests that have led to more than 40 arrests over the past two days.
On Friday afternoon, the public entrances to the legislative chambers, located on the third floor of the state capitol, were locked, and the large crowd gathered outside them erupted in anger and chants of "let us in" and "shame."
Rev. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and head of the North Carolina NAACP, told the crowd "The most important thing you can do is stand up."
"Whenever somebody cheats, it's because they're scared," the reverend said.
Shortly after he spoke, the police cleared the third floor, except for several protesters who began an impromptu sit-in. In the meantime, the final act -- at least until the inevitable lawsuits are filed -- was playing out in the outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory's office.
McCrory, who had not publicly commented either the controversial bills introduced in the legislature curbing his Democratic successor's power, or the anger that they've caused, signed both into law shortly before 4 p.m.
North Carolina has been a flash-point for the nation's political divide for much of the year. It's passage of the controversial House Bill 2, also known as the "Bathroom Law," curbing civil rights protections for members of the LGBT community, inspired lawsuits, demonstrations and many national brands, entertainers and athletic organizations to cut or limit their ties to the state.
North Carolina was also one of the most contested states in this year's presidential election, and its race for governor was exceedingly tight, with Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper edging Republican incumbent McCrory by just over 10,000 votes out of the more than 4.4 million cast.
In fact, McCrory only conceded the outcome of the election on December 6.
That admission of defeat was followed by two special sessions of the GOP-controlled legislature. The first session was called for lawmakers to approve disaster relief to residents in the eastern part of the state whose homes and businesses were flooded by Hurricane Matthew in September and those in the western part of the state who were adversely impacted by this year's active wildfire season.
But then the lawmakers convened an additional special session on Thursday in which they proposed about two dozen bills, the two most contentious of which -- House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 4 -- deal with appointment powers and the state elections board.
In short, the bills seeks to strip Cooper of some of his authority. Among the particulars: 1,500 staff positions that an incoming governor would normally fill would be cut to 300; the governor would no longer have control of the state election board, and the governor's cabinet picks would now have to go before the state Senate to receive confirmation.
The confirmation legislation also would direct the legislature to revive its constitutional prerogative and take over the governor's authority to name some members to trustee boards of University of North Carolina campuses.
Another critical wrinkle in the bills is a proposal to require appeals of the measures be heard by the Republican-controlled state Court of Appeals, rather than the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court.