As legislative Republicans abruptly called themselves into yet another special session on Wednesday, stunned House Democrats stood in protest.

The session dealing with aid for people and businesses affected by Hurricane Matthew and western N.C. wildfires had just adjourned, but Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, issued a proclamation for a special session that would begin later that afternoon, with no limit on its agenda.

Lawmakers rushed to file bills — 28 all told. One GOP-sponsored bill would require Cabinet officials appointed by the governor to receive approval from the Senate. Another would reconfigure the State Board of Elections to include eight members – four Democrats and four Republicans.

Both bills would curtail the powers of the governor, who will be Democrat Roy Cooper on Jan. 1, 2017.

Political science professors note that power plays between branches of government and between a governor of one political party facing a General Assembly of another are not unprecedented, and that Wednesday’s tensions could serve as a prelude to a testy relationship between a new Democratic governor and a General Assembly dominated by Republicans.

“We’ve always known that the North Carolina legislature is the dominant branch, more dominant than a lot of other states in the country,” said John Dinan, a professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University. “We’re getting a reminder of that.”

David McLennan, visiting professor of political science at Meredith College, said what happened Wednesday is reminiscent of 1987, when Democrats controlled the General Assembly and welcomed new GOP Gov. Jim Martin.

“In 1987, when Martin was in power, the Democrats took some powers away from the governor,” McLennan said. “It really has a longstanding tradition in North Carolina, this fight.”

McLennan noted that while the legislative and executive branches have fought over power in North Carolina, Cooper’s narrow victory over Republican incumbent Pat McCrory may have expedited that skirmish.

“This could have some real impact on the governor’s ability to govern,” McLennan said. “Governors have had generally free rein on who they appoint.” If the General Assembly requires approval for Cabinet officials, they could choose not to approve a more liberal appointee, he added.

Dinan also noted that Democrats stripped the lieutenant governor’s office of some of its powers when Republican Jim Gardner won in 1988. Many of the lieutenant governor’s powers as president of the Senate were given to the Senate president pro-tem then.

As Moore gaveled in Wednesday’s special session, Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, rose to lodge a protest under Article II Section 18 of the N.C. Constitution. That provision reads, “Any member of either house may dissent from and protest against any act or resolve which he may think injurious to the public or to any individual, and have the reasons of his dissent entered on the journal.”

Thirty-eight Democrats followed Jackson in lodging such a protest. Jackson and some other Democrats remarked that they believed legislative Republicans planned to approve a bill that would increase the number of justices on the N.C. Supreme Court by two, allowing McCrory to appoint two Republicans before he leaves office on Dec. 31. That would give Republicans a 5-4 majority on the state’s highest court. Democrat Mike Morgan won a seat on the Supreme Court on Nov. 8, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority on the officially nonpartisan court.

However, no so-called “court packing” bill was filed by the Wednesday evening filing deadline in either the House or the Senate.

The bill that reconfigures the State Board of Elections also would make future Supreme Court and Court of Appeals races partisan. It would increase county boards of elections to four members, two Democrats and two Republicans. Currently, county boards of elections have three members. That bill would also allow decisions from a three-judge Court of Appeals panel to be reheard by the entire 15-member court. Appeals from a lower court declaring a state law unconstitutional on its face would also go to the Court of Appeals. Currently, they go directly to the Supreme Court.

Could all of this upheaval by a lame-duck General Assembly have political consequences the next time legislators have to face voters? McLennan doubts it.

“A lot of this is inside baseball,” McLennan said.

However, future Republican governors could have less power with a future Democratic General Assembly, McLennan said.

“It’s not always going to be true that there’s going to be a Republican General Assembly and a Democratic governor,” McLennan said.