Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed more than 180 bills Monday morning, including legislation raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and Laura and Reid’s Law, which brings harsher punishments to people who commit crimes against pregnant women.
Laura and Reid’s Law (Senate Bill 561) is named after Laura Wallen and her unborn son, Reid, who were murdered in 2017 by Wallen’s boyfriend, Tyler Tessier. Tessier only was charged for the murder of Wallen, as the state's attorney was unable to charge him for the loss of Reid, who was only 14 weeks in development and not yet viable outside the womb.
The new bill will punish a person for committing a violent crime against another person who the offender knows or suspects to be pregnant, legislators said.
An individual who is found to have violated this law will be charged with an additional felony and will be subject to the possibility of a prison sentence up to 10 years on top of the penalties for their other crimes.
“I’m grateful for Gov. Hogan’s support and signature on this critically important legislation that takes a big step in protecting pregnant women,” Sen. Justin Ready said in a press release Monday. “Pregnancy-associated homicide in Maryland is 10 times the national average. This added penalty will give prosecutors stronger tools to go after abusers and protect pregnant victims.”
In addition to this bill, Hogan signed House Bill 1169, which raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products, including vaping materials, to 21 amid an epidemic of teen vaping, legislators said.
“There is no more important job than protecting the health and safety of Marylanders,” Hogan said. “The bipartisan measures we are enacting today – to confront the sharp rise in teen vaping and protect pregnant women and unborn children – are important steps in achieving that goal.”
Kevin Burns, JUUL Labs Chief Executive Officer, commended the governor's decision to sign the bill.
“We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in this country, if youth-use continues unabated," said Burns. "Tobacco 21 laws fight one of the largest contributors to this problem."